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City of Seattle v. Hall

as corrected: February 11, 1991.


Coleman, J. Forrest, J., and Ringold, J. Pro Tem., concur.

Author: Coleman

John Hall appeals from the Superior Court's decision affirming the Municipal Court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence of weapons found in his pockets. Hall also asserts that the citation issued against him was constitutionally defective. We affirm.

On December 5, 1987, Officer Leufroy and his partner were patrolling the Rainier Vista housing area which was known to them as an area of high drug trafficking. The

officers spotted a "huddle" of four men, one of whom Officer Leufroy recognized as someone he had previously arrested for burglary and auto theft. Although the men disbanded when one of them noticed the marked police car, the officers left their car and talked to one of the men still nearby. By then Hall was some distance away, but he turned around and walked toward the officers as they spoke with the other man.

As Hall approached, Officer Leufroy initiated a conversation with him, stating that the area was known for its drug activity. Hall stopped walking and the officer asked him to explain what had been going on in the huddle and why he returned. According to Officer Leufroy, Hall became "sort of hostile," "antsy," and "nervous" and kept his hands in his pockets.*fn1 These behaviors caused Officer Leufroy concern for his safety, so he frisked Hall for possible weapons. An open blade steak knife was found in the inside pocket of Hall's jean jacket and a razor blade was located in his pants pocket. Hall was arrested and charged by a citation which stated that he had violated Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 12A.14.080 and described the violation as "Carrying Concealed Weapons (open fixed knife and razor blade)".

Judge Madsen of the Seattle Municipal Court denied Hall's motion to suppress the weapons as evidence and concluded that no Terry stop had occurred before the frisk because the defendant voluntarily approached and talked with Officer Leufroy. The judge also found that the officer had "legitimate concerns" that Hall might have had a weapon and that the circumstances justified a patdown. At the submittal hearing, Hall waived his right to trial, but did not waive his objection to the denial of his motion to suppress. Hall was found guilty as charged.

Hall appealed to the King County Superior Court, and the Municipal Court's ruling was affirmed. Specifically, the Superior Court judge held that Hall's contact with the

police officer was voluntary, that the officer had the limited right to conduct a patdown for weapons, and that the frisk actually conducted by the officer constituted a patdown resulting in a lawful search. This appeal followed.

We initially consider whether a misdemeanor citation is constitutionally sufficient when it sets forth the correct code section and identifies the offense by a descriptive title, but omits an element of the charged offense and omits facts which would identify that element. This issue was not addressed in either court below.

[1] The sufficiency of a charging document may be challenged for the first time on appeal when the defendant asserts that the document failed to allege the essential elements of the charged offense. State v. Leach, 113 Wash. 2d 679, 697, 782 P.2d 552 (1989). However, because it is first raised on appeal, the issue is subjected to a stricter standard of review than if it had been addressed originally in either court below. See State v. Walsh, 57 Wash. App. 488, 491, 789 P.2d 766 (1990), aff'd sub nom. State v. Howe, 116 Wash. 2d 466 (1991); State v. Smith, 49 Wash. App. 596, 598, 744 P.2d 1096 (1987), review denied, 110 Wash. 2d 1007 (1988). Hall claims that by failing to allege the statutory element of "knowingly" carrying a concealed weapon, the citation failed to state an offense -- which consequently prevented jurisdiction from vesting in the trial court -- and violated his due process right to notice.

[2] A misdemeanor citation that contains the appropriate statutory reference and an adequate description of the offense charged is constitutionally sufficient. State v. Grant, 89 Wash. 2d 678, 575 P.2d 210 (1978), as discussed in Leach, at 689. Such a citation apprises a defendant with reasonable certainty of the nature of the accusations and allows the defendant to prepare an adequate defense. Grant, at 686; Leach, at 689.

In addition, CrRLJ 2.1 requires a citation to include "the date, time, place, numerical code section, description of the offense charged, the date on which the citation was issued, and the ...

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