from the District Court of Ward County, North Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Stacy J. Louser, Judge.
A. Neufeld, Assistant State's Attorney, Minot, ND, for
plaintiff and appellant.
N. Lange, Fargo, ND, for defendant and appellee.
1] The State appealed from a district court order granting
Dustin Lark's motion to suppress evidence. We reverse.
2] On or about September 6, 2016, Ward County Narcotics Task
Force Officer Jason Bambenek observed a black Dodge Charger
traveling east bound in the west bound lane near 36th Avenue
NE in Minot, near North Broadway. Officer Andy Mehlhoff of
the Minot Police Department initiated a traffic stop for the
traffic violation at the direction of Bambenek, as Bambenek
was traveling in an unmarked patrol vehicle. The Charger
continued for a few blocks before coming to a stop.
3] Shortly after the stop, Mehlhoff determined Lark had a
suspended Oregon driver's license and a valid North
Dakota driver's license. Bambenek instructed Lark to step
out of the vehicle because Bambenek saw what he believed to
be a "snort tube, " made from a rolled up ten
dollar bill, and crack cocaine in the front passenger area of
the vehicle. Lark was handcuffed, advised of his Miranda
rights, and searched by Mehlhoff.
4] The search of Lark resulted in two cell phones,
approximately $8, 400 in cash, and a rolled up dollar bill
with a "burnt tape" or a "brown burn
mark" on it. Lark was then placed in the patrol vehicle
and his vehicle was searched by Bambenek. During the stop,
Mehlhoff discovered the car was not registered in Lark's
name; it was registered to Victor Wakefield. Lark informed
the officers he had recently purchased the vehicle from
"Richard." Later in the stop, but before the
driving under suspension (DUS) citation was issued, the
officers discovered Richard Hose was also listed as a second
5] While Lark was detained in the back of Mehlhoff's
squad car, Bambenek searched his vehicle. The search revealed
a third cell phone, a letter containing a birth certificate
of another person, and various other collectibles.
Approximately 24 minutes into the stop, Bambenek informed
Mehlhoff the field tests for narcotics were inconclusive.
6] Approximately 28 minutes into the stop, Mehlhoff advised
Bambenek that he would get started on issuing the DUS
citation while Bambenek continued the search of Lark's
vehicle. Lark was then searched a second time for
approximately two minutes and placed back in Mehlhoff's
7] Mehlhoff issued the DUS citation approximately 42 minutes
into the traffic stop and informed Lark he would be free to
leave after signing the promise to appear unless something
else was found in the vehicle.
8] Approximately 47-48 minutes into the stop, after issuing
the citation, Bambenek asked Mehlhoff to contact dispatch to
see if any of the suspicious items found in Lark's trunk
were stolen. Some of the items identified during the search
included a letter that was not addressed to or written by
Lark, a birth certificate, a coin collection, and other
various collectibles. Approximately 51 minutes into the stop,
Bambenek located Suboxene in the headliner by the
9] Lark was arrested for unlawful possession of a schedule
III drug with intent to deliver. Lark filed a motion to
suppress evidence, and the State opposed the motion. The
district court held a hearing on the suppression motion at
which one of the officers testified. Both parties questioned