Don’t Get in the Car With Someone Who May Be Impaired
The Utah Supreme Court recently handed down its ruling in State vs. Simons. Simons was the passenger in a car being driven by Sorensen. Sorensen in Utah County in 2006. Sorensen was driving 10 miles an hour over the speed limit and so a Utah County deputy sheriff pulled him over. Sorensen had watery and bloodshot eyes, rapid speech and movement, and appeared agitated. Based on these suspect acts, the deputy ordered Sorensen out of the car to perform field sobriety tests (note – these are voluntarily; if a cop asks you to do field sobriety tests simply decline).
While exiting the vehicle the deputy saw in the driver’s side door compartment some baggies that had been chewed on and one of them appeared to have white power residue. The deputy then turned his attention to Simons and asked him if he had anything on that he needed to know about. Simons admitted he had a pipe in his pants. The deputies found meth on Sorensen and then Simons admitted to having meth in his pocket.
Needless to say Simons was arrested. At the trial court level Simons filed a motion to suppress in a Utah district court. He lost and appealed. He lost at the appellate level as well. He then lost at the Utah Supreme Court level.
The Utah Supreme Court found that the initial stop was legal because Sorensen was speeding. The Court then found that the deputy had reasonable suspicion to ask Simons the one question of whether he had anything illegal on his person because of the baggies in plain view and Sorensen’s alleged impairment. The Court also found that the deputy did not unreasonably extend the scope of the detention because it was just one question asked of Simons and once Simons answered that he had paraphernalia on his person that gave the deputies probably cause to continue their investigation.
Lessons Learned from Simons
The first lesson learned from this case is to never get in a car with someone who may be impaired. The second lesson we learn from this case is that if you are in the car with someone who may be impaired that cops now have the go ahead and to begin investigating anybody else in the car even if there is no indication that the passenger is impaired. Third, we learn to never help the cops with their investigation of you. If you have drugs or paraphernalia, don’t admit it! Don’t say anything! Finally, we learn that you really can end up being guilty by association in this state.
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