[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Gabrielle J. Goter, State's Attorney, Mandan, N.D., Justin J. Schwarz, Assistant State's Attorney, Bismarck, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee.
Steven Balaban, Bismarck, N.D., for defendant and appellant; submitted on brief.
[¶ 1] Cory Reis appeals from criminal judgments entered after he conditionally pled guilty to controlled substance, burglary and theft of property charges. We affirm, concluding the district court did not err in denying Reis' motion to suppress because the police officers had probable cause to believe the vehicle contained contraband justifying a warrantless search of the vehicle.
[¶ 2] On September 29, 2012, Bismarck Police Officer Kendall Vetter received a report of a possible drunk driver in the area of Ash Coulee and North Washington. Vetter received a report of a pickup truck swerving all over the road and going into the ditch. Dispatch gave Vetter the vehicle's license plate number. Vetter located a vehicle matching the truck's description and license number parked at a grass recycling site in the area of Ash Coulee and North Washington. Vetter parked his patrol car approximately two car lengths behind the truck. Vetter did not turn on his emergency lights, but he left on his vehicle's headlights and shined a spotlight on the truck. Vetter noted the truck was running and the only occupant was seated in the passenger seat. The occupant later was identified as Reis. Reis exited the truck as Vetter approached, indicating he was throwing away trash. Vetter testified he believed Reis was possibly under the influence of a depressant because Reis was mumbling, his speech was slurred, his eyes were glossy and his mannerisms were slow. Reis left the passenger door of the vehicle open. Vetter approached the vehicle and saw a handgun with a magazine in it and several loose pills on the floorboards.
[¶ 3] Vetter testified he handcuffed Reis for safety reasons because of the handgun. As Vetter detained Reis, Reis loudly yelled a profanity at " Jen." Vetter testified he believed a female named Jen was associated with the vehicle and was nearby, and he relayed this information over the radio. Officer David Johnson was en route to assist Vetter when he heard the information about the female. When Johnson neared the recycling site, he saw a female seated on the walking path with her back to the road. Johnson approached and noticed the female was crying. The female later was identified as Jennifer Francisco. Francisco told Johnson that her boyfriend had fallen asleep while driving and the vehicle went in the ditch, that they got the vehicle back on the roadway but that they stopped the vehicle after they got into an argument. Johnson testified he believed Francisco was under the influence of something because of her physical mannerisms and her answers to his questions.
[¶ 4] Johnson informed Vetter that he found the female, and Vetter requested Johnson bring her to the recycling site because they needed to take care of some items found in the vehicle. When Johnson arrived at the recycling site, Vetter told him he found a loaded handgun in the vehicle in plain view. Vetter also spoke with Francisco and noted she was in the same condition as Reis, with slurred speech, glossy eyes and slow mannerisms. Johnson noticed the loose pills on the floor of the vehicle, called the commander's desk to get information about one of the pills and determined the pill was a controlled substance based on the description of the pill.
[¶ 5] Vetter searched the vehicle and found a loaded handgun, a large amount of pills, marijuana paraphernalia, a digital scale with residue, syringes, a lighter, razor blades and pill containers. The items were located in containers and bags
throughout the vehicle's passenger compartment. Vetter located a locked box on the vehicle's backseat. Vetter testified he pried the locked box open without difficulty and without ...