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Leyva v. State

December 9, 2009


Appeal from the District Court of Converse County The Honorable John C. Brooks, Judge.

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


[¶1] Appellant Keith Allan Leyva entered a conditional plea of no contest to one count of possessing methamphetamine with intent to deliver, reserving the right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. Leyva maintains the evidence should have been suppressed because no reasonable suspicion existed to detain him for a dog sniff of his vehicle following the conclusion of a traffic stop. We disagree and affirm the district court's suppression ruling.


[¶2] Leyva presents this single issue for our review:

Did the trial court err in denying Appellant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from the detention of Appellant and search of Appellant's car?


[¶3] Shortly after midnight on April 20, 2008, Trooper Joel Eldred of the Wyoming Highway Patrol was traveling north on I-25 in Converse County when he noticed a vehicle approaching him from behind at a high rate of speed. Using his rear radar unit, the trooper clocked the oncoming vehicle traveling at 100 miles per hour in a 75 mile-per-hour speed zone. Trooper Eldred decreased his speed to about 45 miles per hour. When the vehicle got within 200 feet, it reduced its speed and followed behind the trooper for a couple of miles and then slowly passed the patrol car. Trooper Eldred activated his lights and stopped the vehicle.

[¶4] Trooper Eldred contacted Leyva, the driver of the car, and his passenger. The trooper informed Leyva of the reason for the stop and obtained Leyva's driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. When the trooper asked where they were traveling from, both said they were coming from a funeral in Greeley, Colorado, and that they were heading to Casper. Trooper Eldred looked inside the car, but did not see anything that indicated funeral attendance. As he conversed with the couple, Trooper Eldred noticed a heavy odor of air freshener emanating from inside the car. The trooper also noticed that Leyva appeared fairly nervous and when asked a question, Leyva looked at the passenger who would then answer the question. A few minutes into the traffic stop, Trooper Sheldon Poage arrived on the scene.

[¶5] Trooper Eldred had Leyva accompany him to his patrol car for the purpose of issuing a traffic citation, and Trooper Poage made contact with the passenger. While in the patrol car, considerable confusion arose concerning where Leyva lived. Leyva indicated Casper was "home," but his driver's license listed a Gillette address. Initially, Leyva said he was living in a Casper motel, but later stated he moved out of the motel. When asked about the funeral, Leyva stated it was his uncle's funeral, but could not provide the uncle's name. Leyva also said that he and the passenger left Casper the day before to attend the funeral. Leyva indicated that the passenger was his girlfriend, and that they had been dating for a period of time. Upon questioning, the passenger also was unable to provide the uncle's name. Additionally, she claimed, contrary to Leyva's statements, that they left Casper early that morning for the uncle's funeral, the couple recently started dating, and Leyva had been residing at a friend's trailer.

[¶6] Trooper Eldred briefly discussed the inconsistencies and the situation with Trooper Poage. The trooper then returned Leyva's driver's license and other documents, issued him a citation for speeding, and told him he was free to leave. As Leyva walked back to his car, Trooper Eldred requested permission to ask him some additional questions. Leyva agreed. After asking a few questions, the trooper inquired about the presence of drugs, cash, or guns in the car. Leyva denied having such items. Trooper Eldred then requested permission to search the car, which Leyva denied. At that point, the trooper advised Leyva he was going to be detained for a drug dog.

[¶7] Trooper Eldred permitted Leyva to sit in his vehicle pending the arrival of the canine unit from Douglas. After waiting approximately 23 minutes, Leyva pulled away from the side of the road and sped off down the highway, with the troopers in pursuit. A few seconds later, the troopers noticed an object being thrown from the passenger window. Trooper Poage stopped to retrieve the object, which turned out to be a bag containing methamphetamine, and resumed the pursuit. After a 3- to 4-mile chase, Leyva pulled over and stopped. The troopers immediately placed Leyva and his passenger under arrest. Following the arrests, Trooper Poage conducted an inventory of the car's contents, which revealed additional methamphetamine and drug distribution paraphernalia. A further search of the car was conducted the next day pursuant to a search warrant.

[¶8] Based on the items found in the bag and car, the State charged Leyva with one count of felony possession of methamphetamine and one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver as proscribed by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(a)(i) and (c)(ii) (LexisNexis 2009). The State later charged Leyva with attempting to elude a police officer under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-225(a) (LexisNexis 2009), a misdemeanor. Leyva filed a motion to suppress the methamphetamine and other drug-related evidence, claiming the evidence was the product of an unlawful search and seizure under both the United States and Wyoming Constitutions. Following a hearing in which the district court heard the testimony of Trooper Eldred and viewed a video of the traffic stop and associated events, the district court denied the suppression motion, concluding, among other things, that reasonable suspicion existed justifying Leyva's further detention. Thereafter, pursuant to a plea agreement, Leyva entered ...

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