Friday, October 21, 2011

DUI Law - Utah Upholds Stop On Collective Knowledge Doctrine

In State of Utah v. Houston, one cop --- P.3d ----, 2011 WL 4865169 (Utah App.), 2011 UT App 350 the State appealed the district court's grant of Defendant Patricia Salazar Houston's motion to suppress evidence seized after a traffic stop. The facts were as follows:

"In November 2008, Deputy Avery Stewart responded to a report of retail theft at a grocery store in Providence, Utah. While on site, Deputy Stewart spoke to Trooper Phil Rawlinson, who was off duty at the time. While the two were speaking, Trooper Rawlinson observed Houston driving her car out of the grocery store parking lot. Trooper Rawlinson had previously arrested and cited Houston on numerous occasions. Twice in 2006, he was involved in arresting Houston for driving under the influence, and in 2007, he issued Houston two citations for driving under a revoked license. When arresting Houston in 2006, Trooper Rawlinson discovered that Houston's license was revoked until 2012. In addition, just a few days before seeing Houston in November 2008, Trooper Rawlinson verified in a Driver License Division computer database that Houston's license was still revoked."

The appeals court first discussed the law commonly referred to as "the collective knowledge doctrine":

"Typically, the “officer's own observations and inferences” support his or her reasonable suspicion determination. See State v. Case, 884 P.2d 1274, 1276–77 (Utah Ct.App.1994). “However, ‘under certain circumstances the officer may rely on other sources of information’ such as ‘bulletins[ ] or flyers received from other law enforcement sources,’ so long as ‘the police who issued the flyer or bulletin possessed a reasonable suspicion justifying a stop.’ “ State v. Roybal, 2010 UT 34, ¶ 14, 232 P.3d 1016 (alteration in original) (quoting Case, 884 P.2d at 1277). A “flyer” has been defined as “any information intended to prompt investigation that is transmitted through police channels, regardless of method.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Also, “the collective knowledge doctrine (sometimes referred to as the fellow officer rule) allows the objectively reasonable articulable suspicion to be based on the totality of the circumstances and the collective knowledge of all the officers involved.” State v. Prows, 2007 UT App 409, ¶ 13, 178 P.3d 908 (internal quotation marks omitted). In Prows, we held that if one officer had reasonable suspicion to effectuate a level two traffic stop and passed that information along to a second officer, under the collective knowledge doctrine, that reasonable suspicion was imputed to the second officer and justified the second officer's level two traffic stop." 

"Thus, if Trooper Rawlinson possessed reasonable suspicion that Houston was driving a vehicle with a revoked driver license, then that reasonable suspicion can be imputed to Deputy Stewart. This is true regardless of whether Trooper Rawlinson articulated how he obtained his knowledge about Houston's driver license to Deputy Stewart. See Case, 884 P.2d at 1277 & n. 5 (emphasizing that only the originating officer is required to have reasonable suspicion and that the second officer may accept the information “at face value”).

Applying that doctrine to the instant case, the court found that the stop was proper, and reversed:

"[W]e determine that Trooper Rawlinson had sufficient personal interactions with and knowledge about Houston, including a recent verification of her license's status, to raise reasonable suspicion that Houston was driving on a revoked license. The record indicates that Trooper Rawlinson verified the status of Houston's license on the Driver License Division computer a few days prior to Houston's November 2008 arrest, which the district court acknowledged in voicing its concern that Deputy Stewart had not obtained this precise information from Trooper Rawlinson before stopping Houston. Upon seeing Houston drive out of the lot, Trooper Rawlinson was able to identify her by name to Deputy Stewart and articulate that she was driving on a revoked license.

In spite of the possibility of a glitch in the Driver License Division computer that Trooper Rawlinson used or that Houston's license could have been reinstated just after Trooper Rawlinson used the computer, which were concerns articulated by the district court, we conclude that Trooper Rawlinson had reasonable suspicion that Houston's license was still revoked. Because Trooper Rawlinson had reasonable suspicion that Houston was driving a vehicle with a revoked driver license, that reasonable suspicion is imputed to Deputy Stewart. See Prows, 2007 UT App 409, ¶ 14. Therefore, Deputy Stewart had reasonable suspicion that Houston was driving on a revoked license, which justified the traffic stop."

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