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Robinson v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

December 12, 2019

BRYAN ROBINSON, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Steven K. Sharpe, Judge.

         Representing Appellant:

          Mitch Guthrie, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

         Representing Appellee:

          Bridget Hill, Wyoming Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Benjamin Fischer, Assistant Attorney General.

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

          KAUTZ, Justice.

         [¶1] Appellant Bryan Robinson pleaded guilty to possession of more than three ounces of marijuana and verbally reserved the right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his vehicle. Written conditional plea agreements are typically required; however, under the unique circumstances of this case, we exercise our discretion to review the verbally-reserved issue. On the merits, we affirm the district court's denial of Mr. Robinson's motion to suppress.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] The issues on appeal are:

         1. Did Mr. Robinson enter a proper conditional guilty plea?

         2. Did the district court err by denying Mr. Robinson's motion to suppress which was based upon his claim the trooper violated his Fourth Amendment rights?

         a. Did the trooper have reasonable suspicion to stop Mr. Robinson for following another vehicle too closely?

         b. Did the trooper have reasonable suspicion that Mr. Robinson was in possession of illegal controlled substances to justify extending the duration of the stop for a drug-dog sniff of Mr. Robinson's car?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Shortly after 10 a.m. on December 28, 2017, Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Shane Carraher observed Mr. Robinson driving a red Chevrolet Camaro eastbound on Interstate 80 in Laramie County, Wyoming. Mr. Robinson was driving below the speed limit; but, when he saw the trooper's patrol car, he tapped his brakes to slow down further. Trooper Carraher began following Mr. Robinson and turned on his video recorder as he approached the car. The trooper noticed the car's sunroof was open even though the temperature was around 32 degrees. Mr. Robinson drove up behind a semi-truck, and Trooper Carraher used a stopwatch to calculate how closely Mr. Robinson was following the truck. Based upon his measurements, Trooper Carraher stopped Mr. Robinson for following the truck too closely.

         [¶4] Trooper Carraher approached Mr. Robinson's car and spoke with him through the passenger-side window. The trooper said he was going to issue Mr. Robinson a warning for following another vehicle too closely and requested his documentation. Mr. Robinson said the car was a rental and the rental agreement was on his cell phone. When Mr. Robinson handed over his driver's license, Trooper Carraher noticed his hand was shaking. Trooper Carraher also saw snack food, energy drinks, water, trash, and a backpack on the front passenger floorboard of Mr. Robinson's car.

         [¶5] Trooper Carraher asked Mr. Robinson to accompany him to the patrol car while he completed the warning. The rental agreement showed Mr. Robinson had rented the car on December 26, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and he was supposed to return it there on December 27, 2017. When the trooper questioned him about his travel plans, Mr. Robinson explained he was going to Kansas City to participate in a dance competition on December 29, 2017. Mr. Robinson indicated he planned to leave the car in Kansas City, pay the fees associated with returning the car late and failing to return it to Las Vegas, and fly back to Las Vegas. Trooper Carraher asked why he did not fly to the competition, and Mr. Robinson said he decided to go to Kansas City at the last minute and airfare was too expensive. Mr. Robinson showed Trooper Carraher a flyer for the dance competition which said it was to be held on December 30, 2017, rather than December 29, 2017.

         [¶6] Trooper Carraher asked Mr. Robinson whether he was on probation or parole and whether he had been arrested or cited for any drug crimes. Mr. Robinson answered, "No," to these questions. The trooper obtained Mr. Robinson's criminal history report from dispatch, which showed Mr. Robinson had previously been cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Trooper Carraher suspected Mr. Robinson was transporting controlled substances and detained him for a drug-dog sniff of the car. The dog alerted on Mr. Robinson's car, and a subsequent search yielded approximately ten pounds of marijuana.

         [¶7] The State charged Mr. Robinson with two counts-possession with intent to deliver marijuana (Count I) and possession of more than three ounces of marijuana (Count II). Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(a)(ii) and (c)(iii) (LexisNexis 2019). Mr. Robinson filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized during the search of his car. After a hearing, the district court denied the motion to suppress. Mr. Robinson subsequently pleaded guilty to possession of more than three ounces of marijuana in exchange for the State's agreement to dismiss the other count. The district court sentenced him to two to four years in prison, suspended the sentence, and ordered him to serve three years of supervised probation. This appeal followed.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Conditional Guilty Plea

         [¶8] The State and Mr. Robinson executed a written plea agreement, but it did not state Mr. Robinson's guilty plea was conditional. The discussion at Mr. Robinson's change of plea hearing demonstrated the parties had agreed otherwise.

THE COURT: . . . I've just been handed a copy of the plea agreement by [defense counsel]. I would ask [defense counsel], if he doesn't mind, to summarize what the plea agreement is in this case.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Thank you, Your Honor. In exchange for a plea of guilty to Count II of the Information, possession of marijuana, a felony, the party will -- the State is going to be recommending a two - to four-year sentence in favor of a three-year period of supervised probation.
Count I would be dismissed. Mr. Robinson would have the right to appeal the ruling on the suppression of evidence. And if he were to ...

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