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State v. Scheett

Supreme Court of North Dakota

May 1, 2014

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Rodney Simeon Scheett, Jr., Defendant and Appellant

Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Gail Hagerty, Judge.

Dawn M. Deitz, Assistant State's Attorney, Bismarck, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.

Kent M. Morrow, Bismarck, N.D., for defendant and appellant; submitted on brief.

Carol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers, William F. Hodny, S.J., Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Kapsner, Justice. The Honorable William F. Hodny, S.J., sitting in place of Sandstrom, J., disqualified.

OPINION

Kapsner, Justice.

[¶1] Rodney Simeon Scheett, Jr., appeals from a criminal judgment entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia, and challenges the district court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence used

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against him. Because the search of Scheett's vehicle was justified under the officer safety exception to the warrant requirement, we affirm.

I

[¶2] On November 7, 2012, two Bismarck police detectives were in an unmarked vehicle traveling east on Main Street in Mandan when they observed a vehicle revving its engine and exceeding the speed limit. After confirming tat the license plates did not match the registration for the vehicle, they radioed for a marked Bismarck Police Department unit to stop the vehicle. The vehicle, driven by Scheett, was pulled over in Bismarck by two officers. One of the officers radioed other officers that the driver was making furtive movements and reaching into the center console of the vehicle, and he believed the driver might be reaching for a weapon. The officers conducted a " felony traffic stop." Officers, with guns drawn, ordered Scheett out of the vehicle, handcuffed him, patted him down for weapons, and placed him in the back seat of a squad car. Officers searched the center console of the vehicle where they found two bags of methamphetamine and marijuana paraphernalia, and Scheett was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.

[¶3] Scheett moved to suppress the evidence, arguing it was obtained as the result of an unconstitutional warrantless search. The district court denied the motion, concluding the search was justified by the officer safety exception to the warrant requirement. The court reasoned:

The officers had observed some erratic driving which would have been of concern to them. There was clearly a registration violation. They stopped the vehicle. I am convinced by the testimony presented that they were legitimately and reasonably concerned for officer safety. That had they just cited the defendant and allowed him to return to the vehicle, they would have had concerns that there was a weapon there. They took a very reasonable step in making certain that there was no weapon, that the officers' safety wouldn't be compromised, and the action was limited in scope to just an area where they could see furtive movements.

A jury convicted Scheett of the ...


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