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State v. Beckman

Supreme Court of Nevada

July 11, 2013

The STATE of Nevada, Appellant,
v.
Kent Joseph BECKMAN, Respondent.

Page 913

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 914

Catherine Cortez Masto, Attorney General, Carson City; Mark Torvinen, District Attorney, and Robert J. Lowe, Deputy District Attorney, Elko County, for Appellant.

Frederick B. Lee, Jr., Public Defender, and Alina M. Kilpatrick and Andrew M. Mierins, Deputy Public Defenders, Elko County, for Respondent.

BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.[1]

OPINION

PICKERING, C.J.:

Respondent Kent Beckman was stopped for speeding. The highway patrol officer verified Beckman's license and registration, told him " everything checks good," and issued a warning. As Beckman began to leave, the officer ordered him to remain until a drug-sniffing dog and handler team could arrive. When the dog arrived, it alerted for the presence of drugs, which was confirmed by the warrantless search that followed. Beckman was arrested and charged with trafficking, possession for sale, and possession of Schedule I and II controlled substances.

Beckman moved to suppress the evidence of contraband because the highway patrol officer unreasonably prolonged the traffic stop, unlawfully " seizing" him, and because exigent circumstances did not justify the warrantless search. The district court granted the motion based on the warrantless search. Because the seizure presents a threshold issue that requires affirmance as a matter of law irrespective of the warrantless search analysis, we focus on it. See Picetti v. State, 124 Nev. 782, 790, 192 P.3d 704, 709 (2008) (district court decision will be affirmed

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on appeal where court reached correct result).

A traffic stop that is legitimate when initiated becomes illegitimate when the officer detains the car and driver beyond the time required to process the traffic offense, unless the extended detention is consensual, de minimis, or justified by a reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity. The prolonged stop in this case met none of these exceptions and violated the United States and Nevada Constitutions. The constitutional violation warrants exclusion of the subsequently discovered evidence.

I.

The essential facts of this case were recorded by videotape and are not disputed. At 7:10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Trooper Richard Pickers of the Nevada Highway Patrol stopped Beckman on Interstate 80 in Elko, Nevada, for speeding.[2] Trooper Pickers asked for Beckman's license and registration, which Beckman produced. Trooper Pickers questioned Beckman about his travels, and Beckman answered that he had been driving since 10 p.m. and was on his way to Omaha, Nebraska, to visit his son. At 7:13 a.m., Trooper Pickers told Beckman that he would verify Beckman's documents and issue a warning.

When Trooper Pickers returned to his patrol car, he told his passenger, a new dispatch employee in training, that he suspected criminal activity because of fingerprints on the trunk of Beckman's car. He added that Beckman seemed " overly nervous" and that he, Trooper Pickers, would not drive continuously through the night. When Trooper Pickers radioed dispatch to check Beckman's documents, he asked dispatch to send a drug-sniffing dog/handler team to the scene of the stop.

At 7:18 a.m., Beckman asked for permission to get out of his car to stretch. Trooper Pickers assented and in turn asked for permission to pat Beckman down for weapons. Beckman consented. Beckman and Trooper Pickers then engaged in friendly conversation, largely about Beckman's job as a wine salesperson. A minute later, Trooper Pickers returned Beckman's license and registration and told him " everything checks good ...


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