From the February 2001 Idaho Observer:

Appeal court permits unwarranted traffic stop search

BOISE -- The Idaho State Court of Appeals overturned an August 26, 1999 ruling by District Judge James Michaud to suppress evidence gained by Ponderay Police in a warrantless search of a vehicle during a traffic stop on Highway 200 near the Lignite wood pellet plant at approximately 2:45 p.m., January 25, 1999.

Ironically, several hours later in nearby Sandpoint, the shooting incident involving Rex Prewitt occurred (see pages 11-14).

Ponderay Police Officer David McClelland claims he noticed the pickup truck being driven by Doris Ann Parkison had a cracked windshield and a small amount of sawdust was coming out the bed of the truck. He pulled her over for “littering.”

McClelland determined that she had no valid proof of insurance and went back to his patrol car to write her a citation.

Officer McClelland was soon joined by Idaho State Patrol K-9 Trooper Terry Ford. Ford offered to “run his dog” around of Parkison's truck to check for drugs. McClelland assented. Ford asked Parkison if she had any weapons, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin in the car. He states that Parkison said “no” to all questions but hesitated on “marijuana” and “methamphetamine.”

Ford then informed Parkison that he was going to “run” his dog around her truck. According to police reports, the dog, Rosie, who was reportedly “retired” soon after the event due to her age and failing senses, “alerted” on drugs so Parkison was asked to step out of the car. McClelland claims that he found a marijuana pipe with residue and a “snort tube” that appeared to contain residue of methamphetamine.

Parkison was placed under arrest for possession of narcotics and taken to Bonner County Jail. Further investigation revealed that Parkison had 3.3 grams of marijuana and residue of methamphetamine.

Upon arrival in jail, Parkison was stripped naked within view of male and female police personnel for almost an hour with only a small handtowel to cover herself.

Parkison is a really strong and forthright person who was extremely frightened and tearful throughout the entire event. She was not belligerent or uncooperative in any way. There was no reason to humiliate her in that inexcusable manner.

On January 29, 1999, Parkison had her blood tested for drugs. The results in all categories, including methamphetamine, came up negative. She denies being in possession of methamphetamine. To date, there is no indication that Ponderay Police can provide the court with the alleged methamphetamine.

The issues before the court were:

“(A) Did the officer have a reasonable, articulable suspicion for the traffic stop?

“(B) Were the officers required to give Defendant Miranda Warnings when questioning her about criminal activity unrelated to the traffic stop?

“(C) Did questioning and use of a drug dog interdiction officer who arrived at the scene exceed the scope of the stop?”

Judge Michaud, probably influenced by the inexcusable violation of Parkison's civil rights while in jail, granted the “Defendant's Motion to Suppress” with the following rationalization:

“Defendant is charged with possession of methamphetamine in violation of Idaho Code, § 37-2732 (c)(1). Defendant moves to suppress the evidence on the bases(sic) that (1) The officer lacked a reasonable, articilable suspicion for the traffic stop; (2)the officer failed to give Defendant Miranda Warnings when questioning her about criminal activity unrelated to the traffic stop; and (3) questioning and use of a drug dog by a drug interdiction officer who arrived at the scene exceeded the scope of the stop. The Court finds that the inquiries made of Defendant and the use of a drug dog were not reasonably related in scope to the justification for the traffic stop. Defendant's motion to Suppress is hereby GRANTED.”

For some reason, Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson appealed Michaud's decision. The appeals court overruled Michaud's “Opinion and “Order” December 18, 2000.

“The state argues that the district court erred in concluding that police questioning about drugs and weapons and the dog sniff were not reasonably related to the traffic stop, thus exceeding its scope. We reverse,” the court of appeals reasoned in 2000 Opinion No. 89. Robinson is expected to refile charges against Parkison.

Parkison's attorney Doug Phelps, who according to Parkison had not talked to her since the case was dismissed in August, 1999, filed a civil complaint for her January 4, 2001, for the treatment she received while in the custody of the Bonner County Sheriff's Department.

Scrutiny of Idaho Code and U.S. Supreme Court rulings would indicate that numerous state laws and civil rights were violated during this incident. In recent years, police have been using increasingly absurd excuses, such as dirty license plates and cracked windshields, to justify stopping cars, presumably in an effort to find something for which a citation can be issued.

By reversing what may be one of the only decent rulings made by Judge Michaud in recent years, the State Supreme Court has determined that police may use almost any excuse to pull you over, question you without informing you of your rights, allow other officers to arrive on the scene and begin questioning you without informing you of your rights, scare you, intimidate you, and finally arrest you and charge you with crimes for which evidence is not available to the court.

The state, in its reversal, further supports the notion that, “All rights not demanded (by the citizen) are presumed (by the state) to be waived.”

Though we can accept that police are dutybound to prevent crime, most people are not comfortable with the notion that they can be pulled over at any time for almost any reason.

In order to have your rights upheld, you must understand that a “routine traffic stop” is no longer a minor inconvenience that will cost a few dollars in fines. It is more like walking through a minefield. The Supreme Court, at the prompting of Robinson, just added a few more mines to the field.

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