from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Gail Hagerty, Judge.
A. Lawyer, Burleigh County State's Attorney, Bismarck,
ND, for plaintiff and appellee.
B. Cottrill, Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant.
VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
Alexander Hollis appealed from an order denying his motion to
suppress evidence, which we treat as an appeal from the
subsequently entered criminal judgment. Hollis argues the
evidence should be suppressed because he was subject to an
illegal pat-down search and he was illegally seized when he
was taken to the county detention center for detoxification.
We affirm the judgment.
In April 2018, Bismarck Police Officer Michael Mehrer
responded to a call about a loud verbal dispute between a man
and a woman in the area of Washington Court. When Mehrer
arrived at the scene where the disturbance reportedly
occurred, Hollis was standing on the sidewalk. Mehrer
testified Hollis had his hands in his pockets, Mehrer
requested Hollis to remove his hands from his pockets, and
Hollis complied. Mehrer testified Hollis later put his hands
back in his pockets, and Mehrer requested he remove them a
second time. Mehrer testified Hollis failed to respond to his
questions, and Hollis was incoherent when he spoke and did
not make sense. Mehrer testified Hollis acted
"peculiar" and appeared to be under the influence
of a controlled substance.
Other officers arrived on the scene, and Hollis was detained
while the officers investigated the reported disturbance.
Hollis was handcuffed and Mehrer performed a pat search.
Mehrer testified he felt a hard object, approximately 3
inches by 3 inches during the search; the object was not a
wallet; and he was concerned the object was a weapon or could
be used as a weapon. Mehrer removed the object from
Hollis' pocket, and found it was a small scale. Mehrer
testified he concluded it was probably drug paraphernalia,
but he planned to have the scale sent to the state laboratory
for testing and he did not intend to immediately arrest
Hollis for possession of drug paraphernalia.
Hollis was placed in the back of the squad car while officers
continued to talk to him, and he asked the officers to kill
him. Mehrer testified, based on his observations and
Hollis' statement, he believed Hollis should be detoxed
to prevent danger to himself and the public. Hollis was
eventually taken to the Burleigh Morton County Detention
Center for detoxification. At the detention center, Hollis
was searched and officers located a substance alleged to be
heroin on his person. Hollis was charged with unlawful
possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of
drug paraphernalia, and preventing arrest.
Hollis moved to suppress evidence, arguing he was illegally
seized and subject to an illegal pat-down search. He claimed
he should have been released at the scene after the domestic
disturbance investigation was complete, and the detention and
transport to the detention center constituted an illegal
seizure. He also claimed the pat-down search was illegal
because the item in his pocket was not of a size and density
that would reasonably suggest it might be a weapon.
After a hearing, the district court denied Hollis'
motion. The court found it was reasonable for officers to
detain Hollis while they investigated the reported
disturbance because Hollis was the only person at the scene
of an event in which officers could reasonably assume
presented danger to a potential victim and to officers,
Hollis put his hands in his pockets even after being told to
remove them, his behavior was "peculiar," he did
not respond to inquiries, and his speech was incoherent. The
court found a pat-down search was reasonable because the
officers could reasonably believe that Hollis posed a danger
and that he was armed. The court concluded the pat-down
search and removal of the object from Hollis' pocket were
permissible. The court found it was reasonable to take Hollis
to the county detention center for detoxification based on
the officer's observations and Hollis' request that
officers kill him. The court also found the booking search at
the detention center was reasonable.
Hollis conditionally pled guilty to all three charges,
reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to
suppress. A criminal judgment was subsequently entered.
Hollis argues the district court erred by denying his motion
to suppress evidence. He contends he was illegally seized ...