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State v. Garcia

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

June 28, 2017

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
LAWRENCE GARCIA, Defendant-Appellant.


          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM John Kloss, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

          Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Santa Fe, NM Steven J. Forsberg, Assistant Appellate Defender Albuquerque, NM for Appellant


          MICHAEL E. VIGIL, Judge.

         {1} Pursuant to a conditional plea agreement, Defendant appeals his conviction of driving while intoxicated (DWI). See NMSA 1978, § 66-8-102(D) (2010, amended 2016). Defendant argues that the district court erred in affirming the metropolitan court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence, raising two issues on appeal: (1) whether the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to initiate an investigatory stop, and (2) whether the legality of Defendant's seizure should be judged by the higher probable cause standard. We affirm.


         {2} Charged with aggravated DWI in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court under Section 66-8-102(D), Defendant filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of his detention by Deputy Trevor Weeks of the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department (BCSO). Judge Sandra Engel held an evidentiary hearing on the motion, in which Deputy Weeks, the only witness, gave the following account.

         {3} At 6:55 p.m., the BCSO dispatch received the initial 911 call regarding "a disorderly subject." The caller was a woman who had dated Defendant for two weeks, and reported that Defendant was "banging on her door" and sliding notes under it. She told the 911 operator that Defendant was wearing shorts and no shirt, and drove a black Ford F-150 truck, a Harley Davidson edition. Two minutes after the 911 call, Deputy Weeks was dispatched to the apartment complex where the caller lived. The information provided to Deputy Weeks did not allege any violence by Defendant against the caller. Nevertheless, given his experience on similar calls in the past, Deputy Weeks considered that there was the potential for violence in this call.

         {4} Deputy Weeks was later informed by dispatch that the caller made a subsequent call at 7:08 p.m. to report that Defendant was leaving the apartment complex in his vehicle. At 7:10 p.m., Deputy Weeks arrived at the apartment complex and observed a black Ford F-150 truck, Harley Davidson edition, being driven towards the only point of entry or exit out of the gated community by a shirtless man. Based on information provided by dispatch, Deputy Weeks reasonably believed Defendant to be the person reported by the caller and stopped Defendant to investigate. The stop resulted in Defendant being arrested and charged with aggravated DWI.

         {5} Judge Engel denied the motion to suppress on the basis that Deputy Weeks had a reasonable suspicion to stop Defendant and investigate based on the information he received from dispatch. The judge noted, "In this case . . . the caller was asking for help. I think that that raises this to a different level by calling 911 . . . it was her saying there is a man continuing to knock on my door that I used to be in a relationship with and common sense would tell me that this was something that needed to be investigated."

         {6} Following the denial of the motion to suppress, Defendant entered into a conditional plea of guilty for a first offense of non-aggravated DWI under Section 66-8-102, while reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. Defendant then appealed to the district court. See NMSA 1978, § 34-8A-6(C) (1993) ("Any party aggrieved by a judgment rendered by the metropolitan court in a criminal action involving driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquors or drugs . . . may appeal to the district court of the county in which the metropolitan court is located[.]"). The district court affirmed Judge Engel's metropolitan court order denying Defendant's motion to suppress. The district court determined that based on "the totality of the circumstances, Deputy Weeks had a reasonable and particularized suspicion [that Defendant] had harassed the 911-caller and broken the law." Defendant now appeals to this Court, this time from the order issued by the district court. See NMSA 1978, § 39-3-3(A) (1972) (granting a defendant the right to appeal from a final order entered by the district court in a criminal proceeding); NMSA 1978, § 34-5-8(A)(3) (1983) (providing that the court of appeals has jurisdiction to review on appeal all criminal actions except those in which a sentence of death or life imprisonment is imposed).

         Standard of Review

         {7} "A motion to suppress evidence involves a mixed question of fact and law." State v. Vandenberg, 2003-NMSC-030, ¶ 17, 134 N.M. 566, 81 P.3d 19. "Thus, our review of this case involves two parts: the first is a factual question, which we review for substantial evidence; the second is a legal question, which we review de novo." Id. "We view the facts in the manner most favorable to the prevailing party and defer to the district court's findings of fact if substantial evidence exists to support those findings." State v. Urioste, 2002-NMSC-023, ¶ 6, 132 N.M. 592, ...

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