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Kennison v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 4, 2018

EVAN ERNEST KENNISON, 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: Donna D. Domonkos, Domonkos Law Office, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General; Caitlin F. Harper, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Katherine A. Adams, Assistant Attorney General; Darrell D. Jackson, Faculty Director, Prosecution Assistance Program, Saige N. Smith, Student Director, Brandon J. Rosty, Student Intern. Argument by Mr. Rosty.

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

          KAUTZ, Justice.

         [¶1] Appellant Evan Ernest Kennison entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of possession of marijuana, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(c)(i)(A) and (c)(iii) (Lexis Nexis 2017). Mr. Kennison appeals the district court's order denying his motion to suppress the marijuana Trooper Aaron Kirlin discovered in his possession during a traffic stop on Interstate 80. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Mr. Kennison raises one issue on appeal which we rephrase as follows:

         Did the district court err when it determined Trooper Kirlin's extended contact with Mr. Kennison was a consensual encounter and did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution?

         FACTS

         [¶3] On the morning of April 13, 2016, Trooper Kirlin was on patrol on Interstate 80 west of Laramie, Wyoming. He received a second-hand text message from another trooper stating Trooper Jason Sills with the Utah Highway Patrol had stopped a black Toyota pickup with a bed cover and multiple stickers covering the back window the evening before. Trooper Sills suspected some sort of criminal activity inside the truck, but a canine unit was not readily available and the driver refused to consent to a search of the truck. Just after 7:00 a.m., Trooper Kirlin observed the truck described by Trooper Sills. Trooper Kirlin began to follow the truck and observed it cross the center and fog lines several times.

         [¶4] Trooper Kirlin pulled the truck over and as he approached it he saw both windows were down and the passenger, later identified as Mr. Kennison, was smoking a freshly lit cigarette. Trooper Kirlin informed the driver, Dorinda Wilder, he had pulled her over for multiple lane violations and he would be issuing her a warning. He requested to see Ms. Wilder's driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance, and asked her to accompany him to his patrol car while he ran her information and prepared the warning. While in the patrol car, Trooper Kirlin asked Ms. Wilder if she would be willing to answer some questions and informed her she did not have to answer any questions if she did not want to. Ms. Wilder agreed, and Trooper Kirlin learned Ms. Wilder and Mr. Kennison were returning to their home in Vermont after a short visit with Mr. Kennison's cousin in Sacramento, California.

         [¶5] Trooper Kirlin also learned the truck was registered to Mr. Kennison. Ms. Wilder remained in the patrol car while Trooper Kirlin returned to the truck to verify Mr. Kennison's ownership. Trooper Kirlin checked Mr. Kennison's identification and asked him about the couple's travel plans. Trooper Kirlin observed Mr. Kennison was still smoking a cigarette and he appeared very nervous and was trembling.

         [¶6] Trooper Kirlin returned to his patrol car and finished issuing the warning. He returned Ms. Wilder's documentation and informed her the traffic stop was complete. He asked her if she felt free to leave, to which she responded she did. He then asked if he could ask her some more questions and, again, told her she did not have to answer any questions if she did not want to. Ms. Wilder stated she would answer his questions. Trooper Kirlin asked her the name of Mr. Kennison's cousin they had ...


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