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The State of Wyoming v. Douglas Juarez

July 14, 2011

THE STATE OF WYOMING, PETITIONER,
v.
DOUGLAS JUAREZ, RESPONDENT.



Original Proceeding Petition for Writ of Review District Court of Carbon County The Honorable Wade E. Waldrip, Judge

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

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

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] The State of Wyoming challenges the district court's "Order Granting [Douglas Juarez's] First Motion to Suppress (for an illegal traffic stop)." On appeal, the State contends that the district court erred in ruling that Juarez was not required to signal his merge from an entrance ramp onto an interstate highway.

[¶2] We affirm the district court.

ISSUE

[¶3] The State raises one issue before this Court:

The district court erred in holding that Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-217 is ambiguous and does not require motorists to signal when merging onto an interstate roadway; a ruling which led the court to find a traffic stop was illegal and to suppress the evidence subsequently discovered.

FACTS

[¶4] On March 1, 2010, State Trooper Jason Green stopped Juarez for failing to signal his merge from an entrance ramp onto the right lane of I-80 right outside of Rawlins. A subsequent search of Juarez's vehicle yielded nine pounds of marijuana and, as a result, Juarez was charged with two felonies: Possession, and possession with intent to deliver. Juarez filed a motion to suppress that claimed the initial traffic stop was illegal. The district court agreed with Juarez. The State sought review of the district court's decision by way of a petition for writ of review, which this Court granted. More facts will be set out in the discussion section as necessary.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶5] We very recently reiterated that our rules about statutory interpretation are very clear:

The interpretation of statutes is a question of law to be reviewed de novo. French v. Amax Coal West, 960 P.2d 1023, 1027 (Wyo. 1998). "The fundamental rule we invoke in the interpretation of a statute is that we must ascertain, if possible, what the legislature intended by the language it used." McCreary v. Weast, 971 P.2d 974, 979 (Wyo. 1999).

Our review of statutory interpretation begins with an inquiry into the ordinary and obvious meaning of the words employed by the legislature according to the manner in which those words are arranged. Id.; Sheridan Commercial Park, Inc. v. Briggs, 848 P.2d 811, 815 (Wyo.1993). If more than one reasonable interpretation exists, we resort to general principles of statutory construction. Moncrief v. Wyoming State Bd. of Equalization, 856 P.2d 440, 444 (Wyo.1993) (quoting Parker Land and Cattle Co. v. Wyoming Game and Fish Com'n, 845 P.2d 1040, 1044 (Wyo.1993)). When the legislature has spoken in unambiguous ...


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