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Nava v. State

April 20, 2010

EDGAR EDUARDO NAVA, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Peter G. Arnold, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Chief Justice

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

[¶1] Edgar Eduardo Nava (the appellant) appeals from his conviction for felony possession of a controlled substance. The appellant claims that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence found in his car during a traffic stop. Specifically, he claims that he was subjected to custodial interrogation without first being given Miranda warnings and that his consent to the trooper‟s questioning and subsequent search of his vehicle was not voluntary. Finding no error, we will affirm the decision of the district court.

ISSUES

[¶2]1. Whether the appellant should have been given Miranda warnings before the trooper asked any further questions after the initial traffic stop?

2. Whether the appellant‟s consent to further questioning and to the search of his vehicle was given voluntarily?

FACTS

[¶3]On October 23, 2007, the appellant was stopped on Interstate 25 by a Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper for speeding (81 mph in a 75 mph zone).*fn1 The trooper approached the appellant‟s vehicle, advised him of the reason for the stop, and asked for his driver‟s license, insurance, and registration. As he approached the vehicle, the trooper noted that all of the vehicle‟s windows were rolled about half-way down and he could smell the overpowering odor of air freshener coming from the vehicle. He was also confronted with a strong odor of cologne and noticed a bottle of cologne located on the center console. As the appellant was searching for the requested information, the trooper observed that the appellant‟s hands were visibly shaking and he appeared extremely nervous.

[¶4] The trooper asked the appellant to accompany him to the trooper‟s vehicle. Upon exiting his vehicle, the appellant rolled up all of the windows. Inside the patrol car, the appellant remained "considerably nervous," with his legs constantly moving and his hands shaking. This nervous behavior persisted through the entire stop. When asked about the nature of his trip, the appellant responded that he and his girlfriend, who was the passenger in the vehicle, were travelling to St. Louis, Missouri, to visit his family. However, a short time later, the appellant stated that he was going to Kansas City, Missouri. The appellant also told the trooper that he was a firefighter and had finished work for the year because the fire season was over. The trooper asked the appellant if he had been watching the news, noting that about a quarter of California was reportedly on fire at the time. The appellant did not respond to this comment.

[¶5] The trooper issued a warning citation, returned the appellant‟s paperwork and told him he was free to go. The appellant then exited the patrol car and started walking toward his vehicle. At this time, the trooper exited his vehicle and asked the appellant if he could ask some more questions. The trooper told the appellant that he did not have to answer any more questions, but the appellant, without hesitation, said it was "okay" for the trooper to ask more questions. The trooper then told the appellant that he wanted to clarify where exactly he was going. The appellant stated that he was going to St. Louis. The trooper then asked the appellant if he had any marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamine in his vehicle. The appellant said no, and offered to allow the trooper to search his suitcase. The trooper then asked if the appellant was carrying large amounts of cash, and the appellant responded that he had $1,500 in his pocket for gas money. The trooper then asked for permission to search the vehicle and the appellant told the trooper to go ahead. Upon receiving permission to search, the trooper directed the passenger to exit the vehicle. The trooper opened the suitcase the appellant specifically stated he could search, and underneath the clothes were several bags of high-grade marijuana.

[¶6] The appellant was charged with one count of felony possession of a controlled substance, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(c)(iii) (LexisNexis 2009), and one count of possession with intent to deliver marijuana, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(a)(ii) (LexisNexis 2009). The appellant filed a motion to suppress evidence, which motion was denied. The parties subsequently entered into a conditional guilty plea agreement. Pursuant to that plea agreement, the appellant entered a guilty plea on November 10, 2008 to Count II of the Information; Count I was dismissed. The district court imposed a sentence of three to five years incarceration, which sentence was suspended and the appellant was placed on supervised probation for a term of four years. The appellant timely appealed from the judgment and sentence.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶7] The standard employed when reviewing a district court‟s denial of a motion to suppress is well established:

When reviewing a district court‟s decision on a motion to suppress evidence, we defer to the court‟s findings on factual issues unless they are clearly erroneous. Campbell v. State, 2004 WY 106, ¶ 9, 97 P.3d 781, 784 (Wyo. 2004). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the district court‟s decision because it is in the best position to assess the witnesses‟ credibility, weigh the evidence and make the necessary inferences, deductions and ...


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