Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. James

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

April 10, 2017

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BRADFORD JAMES, Defendant-Appellee.

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF MCKINLEY COUNTY Robert A. Aragon, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Steven H. Johnston, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellant

          L. Helen Bennett, P.C. L. Helen Bennett Albuquerque, NM Law Office of Brad D. Hall Levi A. Monagle Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

          OPINION

          MICHAEL E. VIGIL, Judge

         {1} This is a driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (DWI) case that originated in the magistrate court and was then appealed to the district court. The district court ruled that there was no reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle Defendant was driving, and granted Defendant's motion to suppress. The district court also denied Defendant's motion to dismiss based on a claim that the case was not adjudicated within the time limits of Rule 6-506(B) NMRA, commonly referred to as the "six-month rule." We reverse the district court order granting Defendant's motion to suppress and affirm the district court order denying Defendant's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         {2} A criminal complaint filed in the magistrate court charged Defendant with aggravated DWI (third offense), driving under a suspended or revoked driver's license, failure to carry evidence of financial responsibility, and failure to maintain lane. Defendant filed a motion to suppress and a motion to dismiss, alleging the case was not heard within the time required by Rule 6-506(B). The motions were denied, and Defendant entered into a conditional plea and disposition agreement in which Defendant agreed to plead guilty to non-aggravated DWI (second offense), with all remaining charges dismissed on the condition that if he succeeded in his appeal on either motion, he could withdraw his guilty plea. The magistrate judge approved the plea and disposition agreement, and filed its judgment and sentence. See State v. Celusniak, 2004-NMCA-070, ¶¶ 7-8, 135 N.M. 728, 93 P.3d 10 (describing the procedure to follow for a conditional guilty plea in the magistrate court). Defendant then appealed to the district court.

         {3} The appeal to the district court was de novo. Rule 5-826(J) NMRA ("Trials upon appeals from the magistrate or municipal court to the district court shall be de novo."). This means that in the district court there was "[a] new trial on the entire case-that is, on both questions of fact and issues of law-conducted as if there had been no trial in the first instance." Black's Law Dictionary 1737 (10th ed. 2014). In other words, the district court was not bound in any way by the magistrate court rulings, and the district court was required to make its own decision on the motion to suppress and make its own determination of whether the magistrate court complied with Rule 6-506. See State v. Sharp, 2012-NMCA-042, ¶ 5, 276 P.3d 969 (stating that in a de novo appeal, the district court must determine itself, independently of the magistrate court decision, "whether the magistrate court rules were followed"); State v. Hicks, 1986-NMCA-129, ¶ 6, 105 N.M. 286, 731 P.2d 982 ("In de novo proceedings, the district court is not in any way bound by the proceedings in the lower court."). Defendant again filed a motion to suppress and a motion to dismiss for a violation of Rule 6-506. Following an evidentiary hearing the district court entered its order granting Defendant's motion to suppress. The State appeals from this order. The district court also denied Defendant's motion to dismiss for a violation of Rule 6-506, and Defendant appeals from this order, but only if the State succeeds in its appeal. We address each appeal in turn.

         II. Motion to Suppress

         {4} Defendant's motion to suppress asserted that Deputy Merlin Benally of the McKinley County Sheriff's Department stopped Defendant without reasonable suspicion, and the stop therefore violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution. See State v. Candelaria, 2011-NMCA-001, ¶ 10, 149 N.M. 125, 245 P.3d 69 ("In order to validly stop an automobile, police officers must possess, at a minimum, reasonable suspicion that a law has been violated."). Defendant also contended that the stop by Deputy Benally was a pretext stop and therefore unconstitutional under Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution. See State v. Ochoa, 2009-NMCA-002, ¶¶ 1, 38, 146 N.M. 32, 206 P.3d 143 (holding that "pretextual traffic stops are not constitutionally reasonable" under the New Mexico Constitution).

         A. Facts

         {5} Deputy Benally was parked on the median of the highway to observe traffic and to make himself visible to slow down traffic to a safe speed. While so engaged, Deputy Benally saw Defendant driving, and because of prior encounters with Defendant, believed that Defendant's driver's license was suspended.

         {6} Approximately three to four months earlier, Deputy Benally had conducted a traffic stop in which Defendant was the designated driver for the passengers who were intoxicated. Deputy Benally was informed by dispatch that Defendant's driver's license was suspended with an arrest clause, but because of the intoxicated conditions of the passengers, Deputy Benally gave Defendant a warning and told him to fix his driver's license problem. Later, around the same time period, Deputy Benally stopped a different vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger. Deputy Benally ran Defendant's information through dispatch and learned that Defendant's driver's license was still suspended. In addition, and more recently, three to four weeks before the stop at issue, Deputy Benally was on duty and heard dispatch report that Defendant's driver's license was suspended when another deputy had arrested Defendant for DWI and driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license.

         {7} Deputy Benally therefore turned his vehicle around and began to follow Defendant with the intent to stop Defendant based solely on his belief that Defendant had a suspended driver's license. See NMSA 1978, ยง 66-5-39(A) (1993, amended 2013) ("Any person who drives a motor vehicle on any public highway of this state at a time when [the person's] privilege to do so is suspended or revoked and who knows or should have known that his license was suspended or revoked is guilty of a misdemeanor[.]"). Because the road had "no shoulder" where he could safely stop Defendant, Deputy Benally waited until they reached a safe place to make the stop. As Deputy Benally followed Defendant, he believed that he saw Defendant drive over one of his lanes-a solid white line-and at a stop sign, also believed that he saw that the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.