from the District Court of Johnson County The Honorable
William J. Edelman, Judge
Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender:
Diane Lozano, Wyoming State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan,
Chief Appellate Counsel; James Michael Causey [*] , Senior Assistant
Public Defender. Argument by Mr. Causey.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General;
Caitlin F. Harper, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kelly
D. Mullen, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms.
DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE [†] , FOX, KAUTZ, and
Vanessa Rodriguez entered a conditional guilty plea to a
felony charge of possession of a controlled substance,
marijuana. She reserved the right to appeal the district
court's denial of her motion to suppress her statements
to highway patrol troopers and the marijuana they
subsequently found in her car. We conclude that the district
court did not err in denying that motion, and we affirm.
Ms. Rodriguez states a single issue: Did the district court
err in denying her motion to suppress?
At 11:43 a.m. on December 1, 2016, Wyoming Highway Patrol
Trooper William Beres was patrolling on Interstate 25 in
Johnson County. He stopped a light blue Buick with Colorado
plates for speeding, specifically for traveling at 105 miles
per hour in an 80 mile per hour zone. As he approached the
driver's side of the car, he noticed three occupants: the
driver, a front-seat passenger, and an infant girl in a car
seat in the back seat.
Trooper Beres explained the reason for the stop and asked why
they were speeding. The driver said the passenger was eight
months pregnant and there was some sort of medical emergency.
The trooper asked about their travel plans. He was informed
that they were driving from Laramie to Sheridan to visit the
passenger's grandfather. Trooper Beres noticed that the
driver was not wearing a seat belt.
The trooper asked the driver for his license, vehicle
registration, and proof of insurance. The driver said he did
not have a license, and he volunteered that the passenger was
the owner of the vehicle. He claimed his name was "Joe
Bravo," and struggled to state his date of birth.
Trooper Beres believed that the driver was lying because he
took a while to come up with a name and date of birth, and he
seemed overly nervous. Trooper Beres asked the passenger for
her driver's license. She produced a Colorado license
identifying her as Vanessa Rodriguez. She informed the
trooper that she had no proof of insurance for the vehicle.
Trooper Beres asked the driver to get out of the car. He
frisked him before placing him in the back seat cage of the
patrol car. Trooper Beres then contacted another state
trooper, William Kirkman, because Trooper Beres had "the
trooper's intuition that something is not right here and
[wanted] to have the backup officer here for officer safety
reasons." During this time, the driver told Trooper
Beres that the passenger was "his woman," which the
trooper took to mean that she was the driver's
girlfriend, fiancé, wife, or significant other.
Trooper Beres then returned to the passenger side of the
Buick to talk with Ms. Rodriguez. He confirmed with Ms.
Rodriguez that she did not need medical attention. He asked
her who the driver was. Ms. Rodriguez said that the driver
was her friend "Joe," that she had met him in
California a few years ago, and that he was a friend of her
father. She denied that the driver was the father of her
infant daughter or unborn child. Because her answers were
inconsistent with the driver's, Trooper Beres believed
she was lying about the driver's identity. He warned her
that she could go to jail for lying to him, but he was
willing to "start over fresh" with her. He also
warned her that if she were arrested for lying to him, the
Wyoming Department of Family Services would take her infant
Trooper Beres then returned to his car to check on the
information given to him by "Joe Bravo" and on the
Colorado driver's license provided by Ms. Rodriguez. The
dispatcher could locate no records concerning "Joe
Bravo." The information concerning Ms. Rodriguez's
license indicated that she had obtained a protective order
preventing a man named Jesse Grijalva from having contact
with her. The physical description of Mr. Grijalva closely
matched that of the driver who had identified himself as
"Joe Bravo." Trooper Beres believed the driver was,
in fact, Mr. Grijalva, the subject of Ms. Rodriguez's
Trooper Kirkman, who is part of a K-9 unit, arrived to
assist. Together, they resumed questioning Ms. Rodriguez.
When asked if the driver was Jesse Grijalva, she acknowledged
that he was, and admitted she had lied about his identity.
She also revealed that Mr. Grijalva was the father of both
the infant girl in the car seat and the child with whom she
was pregnant. Ms. Rodriguez did not deny that she had
obtained a protective order against Mr. Grijalva, but she
insisted that it had been lifted by this time.
Trooper Beres told Ms. Rodriguez that he was suspicious of
something else going on because they both had lied about Mr.
Grijalva's identity, and he asked if there was anything
illegal in the car. In response to questioning by Trooper
Kirkman, Ms. Rodriguez admitted to possessing medical
marijuana from Colorado for her anxiety. She said the
marijuana was located in a diaper bag on the floor in the
back of the car, and that there were eight ounces there.
Trooper Beres moved Ms. Rodriguez and the infant into Trooper