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Gibson v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

April 10, 2009

Robert Duane GIBSON III, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Appellee.

Page 353

Sharon Barr, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant.

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

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

OPINION

COATS, Chief Judge.

Robert Duane Gibson III was convicted of two counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the second degree,[1] one count of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the fourth degree,[2] and one count of disorderly conduct.[3] Gibson appeals, arguing that Superior Court Judge Michael L. Wolverton erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. Gibson's motion to suppress was based on his claim that the police discovered the evidence of his drug offenses by illegally entering his trailer without a warrant. The State argued that the police were authorized to enter Gibson's trailer under the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement. Judge Wolverton found that the police entry was justified under the emergency aid exception and denied Gibson's motion to suppress. We reverse Judge Wolverton's decision because we conclude that the circumstances surrounding the search, as established at the evidentiary hearing, would not " have led a prudent and reasonable officer to perceive an immediate need to take action in order to prevent death or to protect against serious injury to persons or property." [4]

Factual and procedural background

On July 10, 2002, a woman called 911 to report a domestic disturbance. The 911 operator entered the text, " Female stated male was threatening to stab her in the head. Could hear 11-19 [disturbance] in background," which was then transmitted. Anchorage Police Officers Justin Doll and Francis Stanfield were dispatched to the source of the call, a trailer on Eureka Street. Upon arriving, Officers Doll and Stanfield heard a woman screaming in the trailer. Moments later, Lisa Bevin " tumbled out of the door" of the trailer wearing only a tank top. Officer Stanfield noticed that Bevin had a " cut on the back of her head that was bleeding" and her eye was swollen. Bevin saw the officers and said, " Help me, help me."

As the officers tried to talk to Bevin, Gibson appeared in the doorway and then started to go back inside. Officer Doll testified that because he did not know " who these people were, how they were involved in the call ... [and] we didn't really have control of [the situation] at that point," he called for backup. The officers drew their weapons and ordered Gibson to come out of the trailer. Gibson complied, and the officers took him into custody outside the trailer. Gibson offered no resistance and was cooperative. Officer Stanfield handcuffed Gibson and placed him in the back of his patrol car.

While the police were dealing with Gibson, Bevin went back into the trailer and put on a

Page 354

pair of pants. The police asked her to come out of the trailer. She asked for permission to put on some shoes, and the police agreed. She then came out of the trailer.

The police attempted to talk to Bevin, but Bevin was upset and " screaming and crying and carrying on" to such an extent that Officer Stanfield put her in the back of a patrol car. Bevin told Officer Doll that there was no one else in the trailer. Officer Doll testified that he did not know if Bevin was the person who had made the 911 call, but there is no indication that he asked Bevin whether she had made the call.

Once Bevin and Gibson were under control, Officer Doll contacted the officer who was responding as backup to let him know that he could proceed to the trailer without his lights and siren, because a suspect was already in custody. Officer Doll testified that during that time, they " saw nothing ...


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