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Court Affirms Suppression of Evidence and Dismissal of Criminal Drug Charges in Light of U.S. Supreme Court Decision

In State v. Alcide, 2016 VT 4 (January 8, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court allowed an appeal of a trial court decision to suppress drug evidence and dismiss criminal charges, but affirmed that decision.

Issue: The State appealed a trial court decision to suppress drug evidence and dismiss criminal charges, arguing that the search and seizure was lawful because a very brief, de minimus detention following a legitimate traffic stop does not require an independent reasonable, articulable suspicion of wrongdoing. Defendant argued that the appeal was untimely.

Holding: The trial court decision was filed on July 3, 2014. The State filed a Rule 5 motion for permission for an interlocutory appeal on July 10, 2014, which was granted on August 25, 2014. The State did not file the Rule 4 appeal until September 8, 2014. The Court held that the Rule 5 request provided Defendant with sufficient notice of the State’s intent to appeal for the Court to allow the appeal. While the appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Rodriguez v. U.S., ____ U.S. _____, 135 S.Ct. 1609 (2015), which controlled the merits of this appeal. In Rodriguez, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a police stop that exceeds the time reasonably required to complete the mission of the stop is unlawful. In this case, the search and seizure occurred after the officer informed Defendant that he would be mailed a ticket. The Court held that it was immaterial that the delay involved in that stop and seizure was very brief, and since there was no reasonable, articulable suspicion of wrongdoing for it, the evidence was properly suppressed and charges dismissed. The Court refused to consider the State’s argument that the evidence would have been discovered with or without the unlawful detention since it was not raised at the trial level.

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