Argued: June 1, 2017
A. Foster, attorney general (Scott D. Chase, attorney, and
Stephen D. Fuller, assistant attorney general, on the brief,
and Mr. Chase orally), for the State.
Christine C. List, assistant appellate defender, of Concord,
on the brief and orally, for the defendant.
defendant, Andrew Robbins, appeals his conviction for being a
convicted felon in possession of a deadly weapon.
See RSA 159:3 (2014). He argues that the Superior
Court (Howard, J.) erroneously denied his motion to
suppress evidence obtained as a result of his arrest
following a traffic stop of a vehicle in which he was a
passenger. We affirm.
pertinent facts are as follows. On April 26, 2015, at
approximately 10:30 p.m., Officer Moore of the Rochester
Police Department observed a Toyota Camry traveling down the
center of Chestnut Street, a two-way road, in Rochester.
See RSA 265:16 (2014) (requiring vehicles to drive
on right side of roadway). Moore also observed the vehicle
fail to make a complete stop at a stop sign. See RSA
265:31, II (2014) (requiring vehicles to make a complete stop
at a stop sign). The officer followed the vehicle and engaged
his emergency lights, and the vehicle pulled to the side of
the road and stopped.
approaching the vehicle, Moore immediately recognized three
of the four occupants from prior traffic stops: the driver,
Haley Cahill; the front passenger, Felix Urrutia; and the
rear left-side passenger, Amanda Ableman. Moore knew both
Cahill and Urrutia were members of a national criminal street
gang known as the "Bloods." Moore observed that
Cahill and Urrutia were dressed in red, a color affiliated
with the gang. Moreover, Moore observed that the defendant,
the rear right-side passenger, was wearing a red shirt and
red bracelets. The defendant's clothing, in addition to
his association with Cahill and Urrutia, indicated to Moore a
potential affiliation with the Bloods. From his training,
Moore knew that members of the Bloods are known to act
aggressively or violently during interactions with police,
especially when new to the gang. Neither Cahill nor Urrutia
had acted violently towards Moore during his prior
interactions with them. However, Moore was aware that Urrutia
had resisted arrest by Rochester police on a prior occasion.
Moore was concerned for his safety because of these
observations, his preexisting knowledge of the occupants'
past behavior and gang affiliation, the time of night, and
the number of occupants in the vehicle.
obtaining Cahill's driver's license, Moore, in
accordance with what he described as his regular practice,
requested the name and date of birth of each passenger. It
took Moore less than one minute to obtain them. Moore then
returned to his cruiser and checked each of the
occupants' names and dates of birth through a computer
system that allows an officer to determine whether a warrant
has been issued for a person's arrest. This check, which
lasted less than three minutes, revealed that an arrest
warrant had been issued for the defendant. Because the
warrant was not an electronic bench warrant, Moore confirmed
with a dispatcher that a copy of the warrant was at the
Rochester police station. The warrant confirmation process
took an additional three to five minutes.
confirming the warrant, Moore approached the vehicle and
asked the defendant to step out. He then informed the
defendant of the warrant and placed him under arrest. After
Moore placed the defendant under arrest, he searched the
defendant and found a knife in his right front pocket.
the defendant was charged with one count of being a felon in
possession of a deadly weapon. See RSA 159:3. Prior
to trial, the defendant moved to suppress the knife, arguing
that Moore unlawfully expanded the scope and duration of the
stop by requesting each passenger's name and date of
birth and subsequently running a warrant check on each
individual. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court
denied the defendant's motion, ruling that Moore's
request for personal information and warrant check were
justified because he had a reasonable, articulable suspicion
of danger and concern for his safety. Following a bench
trial, the trial court found the defendant guilty. This
appeal, the defendant argues that Moore unlawfully expanded
the scope of the traffic stop by questioning him and
conducting a warrant check. The defendant asserts that this
unjustified expansion of the scope of the traffic stop
violated his rights to be free from unreasonable seizures
under Part I, Article 19 of the State Constitution. Because
the defendant asserts a violation of his rights only under
the New Hampshire Constitution, we limit our review to that
claim and rely upon federal law merely to aid our analysis.
See State v. Dewitt, 143 N.H. 24, 33 (1998).
"When reviewing a trial court's order on a motion to
suppress, we accept the trial court's factual findings
unless they lack support in the record or are clearly
erroneous, and we review legal conclusions de
novo." State v. Blesdell-Moore, 166 N.H.
183, 187 (2014).
defendant advances three arguments in support of his position
that we should reverse the trial court's order. First, he
contends that we should decline to adopt a "bright
line" rule, as advocated by the State, that would permit
the police to request the identification of passengers as a
matter of course during any traffic stop. Second, he asserts
that Moore's request for identification and his
subsequent warrant check were not supported by a reasonable,
articulable suspicion of danger sufficient to justify an
objectively reasonable concern for officer safety. Finally,
he contends that Moore's questioning impermissibly
prolonged the duration of the stop and fundamentally
transformed its nature into an investigation of criminal
activity. Because we conclude that ...