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State v. Campbell

Court of Appeals of Alaska

December 19, 2008

STATE of Alaska, Appellant,
v.
David Scott CAMPBELL, Appellee.

Page 1171

W.H. Hawley, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Talis J. Colberg, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellant.

Frederick T. Slone, Kasmar and Slone, P.C., Anchorage, for the Appellee.

Before : COATS, Chief Judge, and MANNHEIMER and STEWART, Judges.

OPINION

STEWART, Judge.

A University of Alaska police officer stopped a vehicle as it turned off Benson Boulevard into a store's parking lot because the vehicle did not have its headlights illuminated. The officer mistakenly believed that the vehicle was operating in violation of 13 AAC 04.010(a)(1), the regulation that requires a vehicle to have headlights illuminated one-half hour after sunset. In fact, sunset had occurred less than fifteen minutes Before hand.

The officer activated his patrol car's emergency lights. Instead of stopping, David Scott Campbell drove through the parking lot, across Northern Lights Boulevard, finally stopping off the road and leaving his vehicle. The officer arrested him shortly thereafter.

The State indicted Campbell for first-degree eluding a police officer.[1] The State also added four misdemeanor charges by information:

Page 1172

driving while under the influence,[2] resisting or interfering with arrest,[3] fifth-degree criminal mischief,[4] and improper use of registration or title.[5]

Campbell moved to suppress, arguing that he was illegally stopped. Superior Court Judge John E. Suddock held an evidentiary hearing on the motion and suppressed the State's evidence. We uphold the superior court's ruling for the reasons below.

Background facts and proceedings

University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Police Officer Scott Chafin testified that he contacted a dispatcher on June 4, 2005, at about 11:00 p.m. to find out " what time sunset was." He recalled that the dispatcher informed him that sunset was " somewhere around" 10:26 p.m.

Officer Chafin went to the University Center on Old Seward Highway to perform a security check of the UAA premises there. He left the area around 11:20 p.m. He then stopped a car on New Seward Highway for not having its headlights on. After concluding the stop with a verbal warning, Chafin stopped another car for not having its headlights illuminated. Campbell's vehicle was the third that Chafin intended to stop for not having its headlights illuminated.

When Officer Chafin turned on his emergency lights, Campbell was turning from Benson Boulevard into the Fred Meyer parking lot. Campbell did not stop but drove across the parking lot as Officer Chafin followed with his lights and siren activated. Campbell drove over the curb on the north side of the parking lot, across the four lanes of Northern Lights Boulevard, and over the curb on the north side of Northern Lights Boulevard, where he stopped. When Chafin stopped his patrol car, Campbell got out of his vehicle and ran to the fence.

The State presented no evidence on why dispatch provided Officer Chafin with faulty sunset information. Although the University Police Department had a system to record radio traffic, the system was apparently inoperative.

Judge Suddock found that the State failed to establish that the misinformation about the time of sunset resulted from " excusable neglect." Judge Suddock also found no evidence that Cambell had endangered anyone, put anyone at risk, or engaged in any outrageous conduct. He granted the motion to suppress, primarily relying on Castle v. State. [6]

The State moved for reconsideration and asked to present additional evidence. Judge Suddock denied reconsideration, pointing out that the State's motion failed to discuss his analysis of the evidence, which found that Campbell had a brief failure to stop followed by a minor traffic offense with no attendant risk to the public.

The State then filed a " supplemental" motion for reconsideration, again asking to reopen the evidentiary hearing to present additional evidence. Judge Suddock allowed the State to ...


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