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State v. Ortiz

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

April 27, 2017

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JOHNNY ORTIZ, Defendant-Appellee.

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF BERNALILLO COUNTY Jacqueline D. Flores, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas Charles J. Gutierrez for Appellant

          Law Offices of Jennifer J. Wernersbach, P.C. Jennifer J. Wernersbach, P.C. for Appellee

          OPINION

          J. MILES HANISEE, Judge

         {1} The State appeals the district court's order suppressing evidence seized from Defendant Johnny Ortiz's vehicle. The district court suppressed the evidence because it concluded that what began as an investigatory detention of Defendant impermissibly ripened into a de facto arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. We agree with the district court and affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         {2} On the morning of June 1, 2012, Sandia Resort & Casino (the casino) security personnel came into possession of a found wallet. Upon searching its contents for identifying information, a security dispatcher found Defendant's name and an unidentified female's name whose contact information was in the wallet. The dispatcher contacted the female, who reported that her wallet had been stolen at the casino. Shortly thereafter, Defendant inquired with security about the wallet, at which point the dispatcher searched the casino's private security database to see if Defendant had any prior infractions at the casino. The dispatcher discovered a person with Defendant's name who had been banned from the casino in 2007.

         {3} The dispatcher then contacted the Pueblo of Sandia Police Department (PSPD) to report a possible criminal trespass in progress. PSPD Detective James Chavez and Officer Stephen Garcia responded to the dispatch. Detective Chavez arrived at the casino first and proceeded to the security office, planning to confirm Defendant's ban with security personnel. Before he could do so, however, security informed him that surveillance video showed Defendant walking out the main doors of the casino.

         {4} Detective Chavez, electing to attempt to intercept Defendant before Defendant could leave the premises, left the security office before he was able to confirm Defendant's ban. As Detective Chavez ran through the casino, security personnel relayed information about Defendant's location to him over the phone. Detective Chavez, in turn, communicated that information to Officer Garcia via radio so that Officer Garcia could pursue Defendant in his patrol car. Security personnel observed Defendant walk toward the parking lot, enter a white vehicle, and proceed eastbound through the parking lot. Officer Garcia located the vehicle, initiated his emergency equipment, and effectuated a stop in the casino parking lot.

         {5} Detective Chavez, who witnessed the stop, arrived on foot and made contact with Defendant. Detective Chavez patted down Defendant, handcuffed him, and placed him in the back of Officer Garcia's car in what Detective Chavez described as "just detention, investigative detention" so that he could confirm Defendant's ban with security personnel in order to determine if there was probable cause to arrest Defendant for criminal trespass. It took approximately ten minutes for Detective Chavez to receive confirmation of Defendant's ban. Detective Chavez testified that after the ban was confirmed, he placed Defendant under arrest, called for a tow truck, and commenced an inventory search of Defendant's vehicle. The search produced, among other things, syringes, a scale, and a bank bag containing baggies of a crystallike substance, later confirmed to be methamphetamine.

         {6} Defendant was indicted on one count of trafficking by possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-31-20 (2006), one count of criminal trespass, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-14-1 (1995), and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-31-25.1(A) (2001). Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized from his car, arguing that it was "obtained pursuant to an illegal arrest and subsequent inventory search . . . in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution[.]"

         {7} At the conclusion of the hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress, the district court granted the motion, finding that PSPD's investigatory detention of Defendant had ripened into a de facto arrest lacking probable cause, violating Defendant's right to be free from unreasonable seizure. This appeal resulted. See NMSA 1978, § 39-3-3(B)(2) (1972) (providing that the State may immediately appeal an order suppressing evidence if the district attorney certifies to the district court that "the appeal is not taken for the purpose of delay and that the evidence is a substantial proof of a fact material in the proceeding").

         DISCUSSION

         {8} Defendant concedes-and we agree-that PSPD had reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant and place him in an investigatory detention. The only issue before us, then, is whether the character of PSPD's investigatory detention ripened into a de facto arrest, which, absent ...


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