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Tibbetts v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 1, 2017

MICHAEL SCOTT TIBBETTS, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable Thomas W. Rumpke, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Nicholas H. Carter and Derek A. Thrall of the Nick Carter Law Firm, P.C., Gillette, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Thrall.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Joshua C. Eames, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Eames.

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

          KAUTZ, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] The Appellant, Michael Scott Tibbetts, appeals his conviction for possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. Mr. Tibbetts' appeal comes after he entered a conditional no contest plea to the charge, reserving the right to challenge the district court's order denying his motion to suppress. We affirm.


         [¶2] Mr. Tibbetts raises one issue in this appeal:

Did the district court err in its finding of fact that [Mr. Tibbetts] consented to continued detention when law enforcement told him "he was free to leave" and law enforcement continued to have [its] red and blue emergency overhead lights activated?


         [¶3] On May 3, 2013, Wyoming Highway Patrol dispatch advised Trooper Jon Briggs that a newer model black Chevrolet pickup with lifted large tires was traveling through Wyoming to North Dakota and was possibly involved in a narcotics transaction. At approximately 4:15 p.m., Trooper Briggs observed a black Chevrolet pickup truck traveling in excess of the posted speed limit on Highway 59 north of Gillette, Wyoming. Trooper Briggs testified he believed the truck was traveling 80 miles per hour in a posted 65 mile per hour zone, and his radar showed the truck was traveling at 76 miles per hour. Trooper Briggs pulled the truck over and identified the driver as Mr. Tibbetts. Mr. Tibbetts' eye contact and body position indicated to Trooper Briggs that he was extremely nervous. Mr. Tibbetts provided Trooper Briggs with his driver's license and proof of insurance, Trooper Briggs verified the insurance card matched the truck, and he then returned to his patrol car to write a speeding citation.

         [¶4] Trooper Briggs returned to the truck and gave Mr. Tibbetts the citation, his driver's license and insurance card, and told Mr. Tibbetts to "drive safe and have a safe day." Trooper Briggs turned to walk away from the truck, but once he reached the rear bumper, he turned around and asked Mr. Tibbetts if he would mind answering a few more questions. Mr. Tibbetts advised that he had no issues with answering further questions. Trooper Briggs asked Mr. Tibbetts about his travel plans and then asked if he had anything in the truck that he should not have. Mr. Tibbetts removed a plastic sandwich bag containing Lortab pills from the truck's console and stated he did not have a valid prescription for the pills. Mr. Tibbetts also disclosed that he was currently facing charges involving methamphetamine in Texas.

         [¶5] Trooper Briggs asked Mr. Tibbetts if he could search the truck and he agreed to the request. However, before conducting the search, Trooper Briggs had Mr. Tibbetts perform various field sobriety maneuvers. Once Trooper Briggs determined that Mr. Tibbetts was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he asked again if he could search the truck. Mr. Tibbetts responded that he did not want his truck searched, and Trooper Briggs stated that he was going to detain Mr. Tibbetts until a drug detection dog arrived. At that point in time, Mr. Tibbetts told Trooper Briggs there was methamphetamine on the floorboard behind the center console of the truck. When Trooper Briggs looked in the described area, he found two glass pipes containing methamphetamine and a plastic bag also containing methamphetamine. Trooper Briggs arrested Mr. Tibbetts and the State charged him with one count of possession with the intent to deliver methamphetamine.

         [¶6] Mr. Tibbetts filed a motion to suppress his statements and the methamphetamine on the basis that the search of the truck was the product of an unlawful detention that exceeded the scope of Trooper Briggs' original justification for the traffic stop. Mr. Tibbetts argued the original detention never ended because Trooper Briggs did not tell Mr. Tibbetts he was "free to leave." Following a hearing, the district court concluded that a reasonable person in Mr. Tibbetts' circumstances would have felt free to leave after ...

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