from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable
Dawnessa A. Snyder, Judge
Representing Appellant: Office of the Public Defender: Diane
Lozano, State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan, Chief
Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General;
Caitlin F. Harper, Senior Assistant Attorney General;
Benjamin E. Fischer, Assistant Attorney General.
DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE [*] FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.
Joshua Lee Pier was convicted of three controlled substance
charges. On appeal, he claims the district court erred by
denying his motion to suppress the evidence discovered during
a search of his vehicle. We affirm.
Mr. Pier states a single issue on appeal:
Did the trial court commit constitutional error and abuse its
discretion by failing to suppress evidence that was obtained
by illegal search and seizure contrary to the Fourth
Amendment of the United States Constitution?
In April 2017, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation
Special Agent Luke Rippy learned that Mr. Pier was supplying
Derek Archibeque with methamphetamine. Mr. Archibeque said
Mr. Pier obtained drugs from a man in Colorado named Terry
Kelly and he had accompanied Mr. Pier on one of his trips to
pick up drugs from Mr. Kelly. Mr. Archibeque described Mr.
Kelly as a white male approximately six feet tall with a bald
head and light brown goatee. Mr. Archibeque told Special
Agent Rippy that Mr. Pier drove a green Chevrolet pickup and
hid the drugs in gas station cups disguised as trash. He also
said Mr. Pier used methamphetamine with his girlfriend, Naomi
Special Agent Rippy was able to confirm much of the
information provided by Mr. Archibeque. He was familiar with
Ms. Atkinson from prior cases and "knew her to be a user
of methamphetamine." Special Agent Rippy checked with
Colorado law enforcement and learned Mr. Kelly was under
investigation for drug trafficking. He obtained a
driver's license photo of Mr. Kelly which matched the
physical description given by Mr. Archibeque, and the
Northern Colorado Drug Task Force identified the person in
the photo as Mr. Kelly. Special Agent Rippy was also able to
confirm Mr. Pier drove a vehicle consistent with the one
described by Mr. Archibeque.
Special Agent Rippy applied for and received a search warrant
to place a global positioning system (GPS) tracking device on
Mr. Pier's pickup. At 12:39 a.m. on May 5, 2017, the
tracker alerted Special Agent Rippy that Mr. Pier's
pickup had left Laramie headed south on U.S. Highway 287. At
12:57 a.m., the pickup crossed the state line into Colorado.
Special Agent Rippy contacted Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper
Aaron Kirlin at approximately 4:30 a.m. on May 5, 2017.
Special Agent Rippy had previously informed Trooper Kirlin
about his investigation into Mr. Pier's drug-related
activities and requested that the trooper and his
drug-detection canine, Frosty, assist in the investigation.
At 5:10 a.m. on May 5, 2017, the GPS tracking device alerted
Special Agent Rippy that Mr. Pier's vehicle had
re-entered the State of Wyoming and was headed north towards
Laramie on U.S. Highway 287. Special Agent Rippy advised
Trooper Kirlin of Mr. Pier's approach. Special Agent
Rippy told Trooper Kirlin the suspect was Mr. Pier, described
the vehicle he was driving, and said he suspected there would
be controlled substances in the vehicle, which may be hidden
in disposable cups disguised to look like garbage.
Mr. Pier's pickup turned off Highway 287 onto Fort
Sanders Road, and Trooper Kirlin headed in that direction.
When Trooper Kirlin located Mr. Pier's vehicle, he used
his radar to determine Mr. Pier was driving 43 miles per hour
in a 40 mile per hour zone. Trooper Kirlin decided to stop
Mr. Pier for the speeding violation. The trooper caught up
with Mr. Pier as he turned onto a side street and into a
trailer park. Mr. Pier stopped his vehicle next to one of the
trailers, got out and began walking away. Trooper Kirlin
activated his lights and exited the patrol vehicle. He
directed Mr. Pier to "come over" to him and
informed Mr. Pier that he was going to issue him a warning
Trooper Kirlin patted Mr. Pier down for weapons and asked him
to sit in the front passenger seat of the patrol vehicle. Mr.
Pier said he did not have a driver's license, and Trooper
Kirlin asked for his name. Mr. Pier replied that his name was
"Jonah," which is his brother's name. He also
gave Trooper Kirlin his brother's date of birth. Based
upon prior interactions with Mr. Pier, Trooper Kirlin knew
the answer was untrue. Trooper Kirlin asked Mr. Pier why he
was lying, and he said he was worried that his driver's
license was suspended. Trooper Kirlin confirmed Mr.
Pier's identity and that he had a valid driver's
Trooper Kirlin asked Mr. Pier about his travels - where he
had come from and where he was going. Mr. Pier responded that
he had come from his girlfriend's house "[j]ust down
the street," where he had "been all night." He
said he had pulled onto the side street because he was
"doing . . . some construction work in the general
area." Trooper Kirlin knew Mr. Pier's answer about
where he was traveling from was not true because the GPS
tracking device on Mr. Pier's pickup showed he had just
come from Colorado. Trooper Kirlin stated that his
investigation of the speeding ended when Mr. Pier
"starting lying" to him.
Trooper Kirlin asked Mr. Pier if there was anything illegal
in the pickup, and Mr. Pier responded in the negative.
Trooper Kirlin asked for permission to search the pickup, but
Mr. Pier refused to consent to a search. Trooper Kirlin then
deployed Frosty to sniff the exterior of the pickup. Frosty
alerted at the driver's side window.
Trooper Kirlin searched Mr. Pier's vehicle, which was
filled with "stuff." Mr. Pier said he was living in
his pickup. Trooper Kirlin discovered:
a small amount of prescription pills found in a cigarette
box, two scales with suspected methamphetamine residue found
in a backpack behind the driver's seat, a gas station
coffee cup that contained two large bags of methamphetamine,
a small bag of methamphetamine, a bag of black tar heroin, a
bag of powdered heroin, a bag of marijuana, several jewelers
bags, several syringes, and another small scale.
Trooper Kirlin arrested Mr. Pier, and the State charged Mr.
Pier with four counts: 1) possession of methamphetamine in an
amount greater than three grams; 2) possession with intent to
deliver methamphetamine; 3) possession of heroin in an amount
greater than three grams; and 4) possession with intent to
deliver heroin. Mr. Pier pleaded not guilty and filed a
motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the search of his
pickup. The district court held a hearing on Mr.
Pier's motion to suppress on November 21, 2017. In an
order dated December 7, 2017, the district court denied the
Mr. Pier was tried before a jury in December 2017. The jury
found him guilty of the first three counts but acquitted him
of the fourth count. The district court entered judgment on
the jury's verdict. It concluded the first two counts
(possession of methamphetamine and possession with intent to
deliver methamphetamine) merged for sentencing and sentenced
Mr. Pier to serve ten to fifteen years in prison on Count II.
It sentenced Mr. Pier to serve three to five years in prison
on Count III, to run concurrently to the sentence on Count
II. Mr. Pier filed a timely notice of appeal.
We apply the following standard in reviewing a denial of a
motion to suppress evidence:
[W]e defer to the court's findings of fact unless they
are clearly erroneous. Jennings v. State, 2016 WY
69, ¶ 8, 375 P.3d 788, 790 (Wyo. 2016). We consider the
evidence in the light most favorable to the district
court's decision because the court had the opportunity to
assess the credibility of the witnesses and hear the evidence
in the first instance. Owens v. State, 2012 WY 14,
¶ 8, 269 P.3d 1093, 1095 (Wyo. 2012). The underlying
legal issue-whether a search or seizure was unreasonable ...