Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 94-1-01286-6. Date filed in Superior Court: June 23, 1994. Superior Court Judge Signing: Hon. Janice Niemi.
Written by: Judge Kennedy, Concurred by: Judge Coleman, Judge Ellington
KENNEDY, A.C.J. -- Travis Lee Rife appeals his conviction of one count of possession of heroin, contending that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of an unlawful seizure.*fn1 We hold that it is constitutionally reasonable for an officer to run a warrant check during the course of a routine traffic stop, as long as the period of the detention is not unduly long, and as long as the stop itself is not pretextual. Rife concedes that he was stopped for a valid reason. Finding that he was not detained for an unreasonable period of time, we affirm.
On the evening of February 19, 1994, Officer Chittenden of the Seattle Police Department was on routine patrol
when he noticed Rife crossing Aurora Avenue, outside of the crosswalk and against the red light. Chittenden stopped Rife to cite him for jaywalking. After informing Rife of the purpose of the stop, Chittenden obtained Rife's identification and ran a check for outstanding warrants. Chittenden testified that although it was not department policy to run such a check, he did so in accord with the procedure he was taught at the police academy.
Within five to ten minutes, Chittenden was informed that there were two outstanding warrants for Rife's arrest. The warrants were verified within another five to ten minutes. Chittenden testified that while he was running the warrant check, Rife was not free to leave. Upon verification of the warrants, Chittenden placed Rife under formal arrest. Chittenden did not issue Rife a citation for jaywalking.
At the station, Chittenden performed a search incident to arrest and discovered a bindle of heroin in Rife's pocket. Rife was charged with one count of possessing a controlled substance in violation of RCW 69.50.401(D). At a CrR 3.6 hearing on May 11, 1994, Rife moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the search incident to his arrest, arguing that it was obtained unlawfully pursuant to a pretextual stop. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the stop was not pretextual and thus the evidence was lawfully obtained. Rife subsequently agreed to a stipulated trial, after which the trial court found him guilty as charged.
On appeal, Rife has abandoned the argument that the heroin was obtained unlawfully pursuant to a pretextual stop. He now concedes that his detention was valid at its inception. Appellant's opening brief at 10; see also RCW 46.61.050, 46.63.020 (designating jaywalking as a traffic infraction); SMC 11.50.160. Rife argues on appeal that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because
his detention while the officer ran the warrant check constituted an unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Art. 1, § 7 of the Washington Constitution. We reject Rife's argument, and hold that an officer may detain a person stopped for a routine traffic infraction for a reasonable period of time, in order to check for outstanding ...