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Gibson v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

April 12, 2019

LARRY GIBSON, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan, Chief Appellate Counsel; Robin S. Cooper, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General; Katherine A. Adams * , Assistant Attorney General.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          FOX, JUSTICE.

         * An Order Allowing Withdrawal of Counsel was entered on April 9, 2019.

         [¶1] Larry Gibson was convicted of one count of possession with intent to deliver marijuana. He appeals his conviction, arguing the evidence against him should have been suppressed because it was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 4 of the Wyoming Constitution. We affirm.


         [¶2] Did the district court err in denying Mr. Gibson's motion to suppress evidence?


         [¶3] While patrolling Interstate 80, Trooper Jeramy Pittsley stopped a pickup truck towing a horse trailer because he did not see any registration displayed on the vehicle. When Trooper Pittsley told Mr. Gibson why he had pulled him over, Mr. Gibson stated it was "over there" and pointed to a piece of paper taped to the passenger-side windshield of the truck. Trooper Pittsley noticed that Mr. Gibson was "excessively nervous" and that his hands were shaking as he handed over his driver's license and insurance. Trooper Pittsley asked Mr. Gibson to exit the vehicle, retrieve the piece of paper from the windshield, and accompany him to his patrol car.

         [¶4] In the patrol car, Trooper Pittsley began entering Mr. Gibson's information and asked dispatch to check the vehicle's VIN number and Mr. Gibson's criminal history. He also contacted his shift partner, Trooper Daren Mrsny, and asked him to assist with the stop. Trooper Pittsley asked Mr. Gibson about his travel plans. Mr. Gibson responded that he was traveling from Redding, California to Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Trooper Pittsley again noticed that Mr. Gibson seemed "excessively nervous," saying that he could "see his heart beating through his chest," that he was wiping his hands on his pants, and that his hands were shaking. He found this unusual because he had already informed Mr. Gibson that he would receive a warning "if everything checked out."

         [¶5] Trooper Pittsley testified that it typically takes him eight to fifteen minutes to issue a warning citation but that this stop was out of the ordinary because Mr. Gibson "had some registration issues." Trooper Pittsley had difficulty reading the piece of paper Mr. Gibson had retrieved from the windshield because "[t]he print was pretty faded on it and out of alignment." He also noticed that the paper did not have an expiration date and "[u]nder ownership it stated it was owned by a Ray McGarver." Mr. Gibson told him Ray McGarver was the owner of the car dealership where he had purchased the truck. Trooper Pittsley and Mr. Gibson went back to the truck to attempt to locate any additional paperwork, such as a bill of sale, and Mr. Gibson attempted to call the dealership. Approximately 15 minutes into the stop, Trooper Pittsley contacted dispatch and asked whether it had any results on the information he had asked it to run. Trooper Mrsny arrived at roughly the same time, and dispatch still had not provided Trooper Pittsley with the information. Trooper Pittsley asked Trooper Mrsny to continue filling out the citation while he "did a free air sniff with [his] canine." The dog alerted to the front right-side area of the trailer about 17 minutes after Trooper Pittsley had initiated the traffic stop. Trooper Pittsley searched the trailer and found several vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana weighing, in total, approximately 197 pounds.

         [¶6] The State charged Mr. Gibson with one count of possession with intent to deliver marijuana, one count of felony possession of marijuana, and one count of "No Valid Registration." Mr. Gibson moved to suppress the marijuana, arguing the search was unreasonable under the United States and Wyoming Constitutions. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the initial traffic stop was justified and that the dog sniff to the exterior of the vehicle did not unreasonably extend the scope of the stop. The State agreed to dismiss two of the counts against Mr. Gibson and cap its sentencing recommendation at five to ten years in exchange for a guilty plea to the possession with intent to deliver charge. Mr. Gibson entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The district ...

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