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Simmons v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

August 17, 2018

MIKOS CASSADINE SIMMONS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

          Appeal from the Superior Court No. 3AN-12-654 CR, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Jack W. Smith, Judge.

          Vikram N. Chaobal, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

          June Stein, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

          Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, and Allard and Wollenberg, Judges.

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER Judge.

         On the evening of January 21, 2012, Mikos Cassadine Simmons was driving in Anchorage with his girlfriend and their child. An Anchorage police officer stopped Simmons's vehicle because its taillights were darkened and its license plate was partially obscured by snow.

         The officer who made the stop, Chad Schaeffer, asked to see Simmons's driver's license. Simmons replied that he did not have his driver's license with him, but he told Officer Schaeffer his name, his date of birth, and his social security number, and he gave the officer his voter registration card. After Schaeffer returned to his patrol car and verified all of this information, he prepared to issue a citation to Simmons for driving without his driver's license in his possession.

         However, while Officer Schaeffer was on the radio confirming Simmons's identity, a patrol sergeant, Jack Carson, informed him that Simmons was a dangerous person, and that he was "associated" with drugs and guns. Sergeant Carson told Officer Schaeffer not to return to Simmons's car until Carson could arrive on the scene to provide backup.

         Schaeffer filled out the traffic citation, and then he waited for his sergeant to arrive. Several minutes later, Sergeant Carson arrived on the scene. Carson and Schaeffer walked up to Simmons's car. Carson greeted Simmons by name, and he asked if he could search Simmons's vehicle. Simmons said no. Sergeant Carson then directed Simmons to get out of his vehicle and submit to a pat-down search for weapons.

         While Sergeant Carson was conducting this pat-down search, Officer Schaeffer positioned himself alongside Simmons's vehicle so that he could keep an eye on Simmons's girlfriend. According to Schaeffer's later testimony, he shined a flashlight into the vehicle and, on the floor of the vehicle, he observed a sandwich-sized plastic baggie with other smaller baggies inside it.

         In the meantime, Sergeant Carson had completed his pat-down of Simmons, and he found no weapons. Nevertheless, Carson then directed Simmons's girlfriend to get out of the car, so that the officers could search the entire passenger compartment for weapons. When Sergeant Carson looked inside Simmons's car, he observed the same baggies that Officer Schaeffer had seen. Carson surmised that the baggies contained heroin, given the appearance of the substance in the baggies and the way they were packaged. The officers then arrested Simmons, and the substance was later confirmed to be heroin.

         Simmons's attorney moved to suppress the evidence found in Simmons's car, alleging that the police had improperly extended the traffic stop. The superior court denied this suppression motion, and Simmons was ultimately convicted of fourth-degree controlled substance misconduct (possession of heroin), former AS 11.71.040(a)(3)(A) (as of 2012).

         In this appeal, Simmons renews his argument that the police unlawfully extended the traffic stop, and that the evidence pertaining to the bag of heroin should have been suppressed. For the reasons explained in this opinion, we agree.

         The constitutional limits on a routine traffic stop, and why we conclude that those limits were ...


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