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Latta v. State

March 10, 2009

DANIEL ROBERT LATTA, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Carbon County The Honorable Wade E. Waldrip, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hill, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] Before he pled guilty to felony possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, Daniel R. Latta filed a motion to suppress evidence seized from his vehicle after a traffic stop. The district court denied his motion, and Latta now claims on appeal that the district court erred in denying the motion because, although he conceded that the initial stop was legal, he did not voluntarily consent to the trooper‟s second round of questions and the trooper did not have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity justifying Latta‟s detention until a drug dog arrived. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Latta presents just one issue for our consideration:

I. Did the trial court abuse its discretion and commit reversible error when it denied [Latta‟s] Motion to Suppress?

The State rephrases the issue this way:

1. The trial court did not err when it denied [Latta‟s] Motion to Suppress Evidence.

FACTS

[¶3] While patrolling a section of I-80 on April 26, 2007, Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Green, accompanied by Trooper Mike Felicetti, noticed a gray car which appeared to be speeding. According to Trooper Green‟s radar, the gray car, driven by Daniel R. Latta, was traveling 79 miles per hour in a 75 mile per hour zone. Upon spotting the trooper, Latta immediately slowed to 65 miles per hour, and as the two vehicles passed one another, Latta shielded his face with his arm and hand.

[¶4] Trooper Green initiated a stop of Latta, and both troopers approached the vehicle and informed Latta that he had been stopped for speeding. Latta was visibly shaking, and began stuttering, agreeing that he had been speeding because he was on his way home. Trooper Green noticed that Latta‟s face was flushed and his hands were trembling. The trooper told Latta that he would give him a warning, asked him to calm down, and requested his driver‟s license and proof of insurance.

[¶5] Latta informed the trooper that the vehicle was not his, but a rental, whereupon the trooper asked for the rental agreement. Latta gave his license, but no rental agreement -- instead, he gave the trooper a card listing the vehicle‟s VIN and a reference number for law enforcement to call to verify that Latta was authorized to drive the car.

[¶6] The trooper then asked Latta about his travel plans, and Latta, still stuttering, said that he had been in Salt Lake for "pleasure," not business. Latta said he had been traveling for four days. While talking to Latta, Trooper Green noticed shirts hanging on the backseat, a cooler, several overnight bags, and two pillows. After this initial encounter, which lasted "[a] minute to two, maybe .," Trooper Green returned to his patrol car.

[¶7] While in his patrol car, Trooper Green called the number on the back of the card Latta gave him, and discovered Latta had in fact rented the vehicle a week before. The card was apparently given to Latta as a frequent renter in lieu of a rental agreement. Trooper Green filled out a warning ticket for speeding and returned to Latta‟s vehicle, where he then noticed the smell of marijuana. He explained the warning and then asked Latta if he rented cars often, to which Latta responded in the affirmative. The trooper asked Latta again from where he was coming, but instead of Salt Lake, Latta responded ...


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