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Harris v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 7, 2018

JAMES BRYANT HARRIS, JR., Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Tori R.A. Kricken, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Thomas A. Fleener of Fleener Law, PC, Laramie, WY.

          Representing 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, Prosecution Assistance Program; Saige N. Smith, Student Director; and Becky Farley, Student Intern. Argument by Ms. Farley.

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

          HILL, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] James Bryant Harris, Jr., argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a detention and subsequent search of his vehicle. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Mr. Harris submits his single issue on appeal:

Did the trial court err in denying Appellant's Motion to Suppress Evidence obtained as a result of his illegal detention and subsequent search of his vehicle?

         FACTS

         [¶3] On May 5, 2016, in the early afternoon, Trooper Aaron Kirlin initiated a vehicle stop on Interstate 80 for speeding. Two people occupied the vehicle - James Harris and his wife, Katelyn. The trooper requested Mr. Harris's license, registration, and proof of insurance, and told Mr. Harris he would only be warned for speeding. The information checked out, except for the insurance card's expiration date.

         [¶4] After some discussion about the insurance, Trooper Kirlin asked Mr. Harris to come back to the patrol car while he verified the remaining documentation. While in the patrol car, Trooper Kirlin inquired about the Harris's travel plans. Mr. Harris was unclear about when exactly they left Salt Lake City, Utah, or when they left Florida, and requested the trooper to ask his wife. Mr. Harris also said it had taken two days to drive from Salt Lake City, and that they intended to travel to Florida in the same amount of time, which the trooper found odd.

         [¶5] During the hearing on Mr. Harris's motion, Trooper Kirlin testified that throughout the encounter, Mr. Harris was nervous, as evidenced by a rocking leg, fidgeting with his pants pockets, and excessive talking. The trooper testified that he tried to set Harris at ease by asking about things like fishing, but when returning to the subject of travel plans, his nervousness returned. The trooper also testified that when he asked Harris about medical conditions, he responded that he had an anxiety disorder.

         [¶6] Trooper Kirlin testified that he then went back to the Harris's car to speak with Mrs. Harris. She reported she was having trouble finding the updated insurance information, and when asked about travel plans, she stated they were traveling from Eugene, Oregon. She stated they were driving straight through to Florida, but did make a couple stops in various towns, but did not remember which ones, except for Salt Lake City. The trooper retuned to the patrol car and asked Mr. Harris if he had ever been arrested. The trooper testified that early on in his contact with Mr. Harris, dispatch informed him that his car had been stopped three months earlier near Rock Springs, Wyoming, and that had resulted in the seizure of a small amount of marijuana and ...


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