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Clay v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 27, 2016

MARVIN CLAY, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff)

          Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County. The Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge.

         For Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; Eric M. Alden, Senior Assistant Public Defender.

         For Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Darrell D. Jackson, Faculty Director; Bradford H. Coates, Student Director; and Chika Kodaka, Student Intern, of the Prosecution Assistance Program.

         Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          OPINION

         DAVIS, Justice.

          [¶1] Appellant Marvin Clay challenges the denial of his motion to suppress evidence supporting a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. We affirm.

         ISSUE

          [¶2] Did the district court err in denying Appellant's motion to suppress?

         FACTS

          [¶3] In the late evening of December 19, 2014, a Cheyenne police officer stopped Appellant's car after it exited the parking lot of the Eagle's Nest Bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming. From that point on, the facts are disputed in certain respects, and we will first recount the State's version of the events. The officer testified that he made the stop because the car did not have any license plates displayed. All he could see at that point was a white piece of paper in the upper left corner of the rear window, which was heavily tinted.[1]

          [¶4] Because he was unable to verify that the white piece of paper was a document which would allow Appellant to operate the vehicle temporarily, the officer approached the car and talked to him. He asked about the paper and if there was a bill of sale. The document in the window turned out to be a title, but more than forty-five days had elapsed since the transfer, and the officer could not tell if it was notarized, both of which were required for operation of the vehicle to be legal. Appellant said there was a bill of sale, and opened his wallet and started thumbing through it for that document, but he never pulled anything out. Appellant could not provide a driver's license or proof of insurance either.

          [¶5] Within the first minute of Appellant slowly flipping through his wallet, the officer observed signs of possible intoxication. A slight odor of alcohol emanated from the vehicle. There was also an empty vodka bottle on the rear seat. Appellant would not look up at the officer, who also observed that his motor skills appeared to be " real, real slow." The officer was able to obtain Appellant's name and date of birth. After he returned to his vehicle to run a check (presumably for warrants) on the identification he had, he contacted another officer who was working on the DUI Task Force that evening.

          [¶6] The DUI Task Force officer quickly arrived, and he observed that Appellant smelled heavily of alcohol, and his speech was slurred and his eyes were glazed. Consequently, he was asked to perform three standard field sobriety tests.[2] He performed poorly on all three, and the DUI Task Force officer arrested him for driving under the influence of alcohol. An ensuing blood test revealed that Appellant's blood alcohol content was .18%, more than twice the legal limit.

          [¶7] Appellant was ultimately charged, inter alia, with Driving Under the Influence, Fourth Offense, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-233 (LexisNexis 2013).[3] He eventually filed a motion to suppress the evidence against him. He claimed that his detention was improperly expanded beyond the scope of the initial traffic stop because it was improper for the officer to contact him after he looked at ...


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