Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People v. Reyes-Valenzuela

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

April 24, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant:
v.
Gonzalo V. Reyes-Valenzuela. Defendant-Appellee:

         Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court El Paso County District Court Case No. 15CR4742 Honorable Marla R. Prudek, Judge

          Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: Daniel H. May, District Attorney, Fourth Judicial District Jakrapong Pattamasaevi, Deputy District Attorney Doyle Baker, Senior Deputy District Attorney Colorado Springs, Colorado.

          Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender Tracy C. Renner, Deputy Public Defender Rosemarie S. Offord, Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado.

          OPINION

          RICE CHIEF JUSTICE.

         ¶1 This interlocutory appeal requires us to answer whether an officer, with a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal behavior is afoot, must consider the possible innocent explanations for otherwise suspicious behavior before conducting an investigatory stop. Specifically, when an officer is aware that a person is driving around late at night, going in and out of unfinished houses in an area where there had been recent break-ins of unfinished houses, and carrying a black bag, is that officer required to consider possible innocent explanations before conducting an investigatory stop of that person? We hold that, because case law from this court and the United States Supreme Court does not require an officer to consider every possible innocent explanation for criminal behavior, the officers in this case justifiably performed an investigatory stop on the defendant based on a reasonable, articulable suspicion of ongoing criminal activity. We therefore reverse the trial court's suppression order and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶2 Around 11:30 p.m., a concerned citizen ("the caller") called El Paso County law enforcement because the caller witnessed a possible break-in in a partially developed residential neighborhood. The caller said he saw a person, later identified as Defendant Gonzalo V. Reyes-Valenzuela, enter several unfinished houses, leave one of the houses carrying a black bag, and use a light-colored, boxy van to travel between houses. There had been several previous reports in the same vicinity of people entering unfinished houses and stealing copper. It was also known to police that contractors occasionally worked late at night in the area.

         ¶3 An officer and her partner arrived on the scene around midnight. The caller was standing near the van and identified himself to the deputies. The deputies began speaking to Reyes-Valenzuela, who was inside the van. Reyes-Valenzuela spoke limited English but provided the officers with his name and birth date. The deputies checked his name, which revealed an outstanding arrest warrant. The deputies then arrested Reyes-Valenzuela, properly conducted a search incident to arrest, and found drug paraphernalia and a black bag. He was charged with first-degree criminal trespass and possession of drug paraphernalia.

         ¶4 Reyes-Valenzuela moved to suppress the fruits of the officers' investigatory stop, arguing that the officers did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion for initially stopping him and talking to him. Reyes-Valenzuela made this argument despite the following facts: (1) the caller, who was willing to identify himself, called law enforcement around 11:30 p.m. to report a possible break-in in a partially developed residential area; (2) there had been several recent break-ins in the area in which people stole copper from unfinished houses; (3) the caller said that a person driving a boxy van was going in and out of unfinished houses; and (4) the caller saw that person leave one of the houses with a black bag and a get into the van. Reyes-Valenzuela based his argument partially on the fact that contractors sometimes worked late at night on the unfinished houses. Reyes-Valenzuela never disputed that he was the person that the caller saw driving from unfinished house to unfinished house.

         ¶5 At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the only witness-one of the deputies-testified that (1) she did not know whether Reyes-Valenzuela was authorized to enter the houses; (2) she did not know if the black bag belonged to him; (3) she knew that contractors sometimes worked late at night on the unfinished houses; (4) she would not have had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop Reyes-Valenzuela if there had only been a report of someone driving around in the area; and (5) there had been past reports of burglaries in the area. Reyes-Valenzuela argued not that the caller had misidentified him, but merely that the police did not consider the possible innocent reasons for his entry of several unfinished houses late at night.

         ¶6 The trial court granted Reyes-Valenzuela's motion to suppress for two reasons. First, the caller had not given details about the size of the black bag or how long Reyes-Valenzuela had been in the houses, and legitimate construction activity sometimes occurred at night. Second, Reyes-Valenzuela did not attempt to flee from the deputies when they arrived on the scene. The prosecution filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied. The prosecution then filed a timely interlocutory appeal pursuant to section 16-12-202(2), C.R.S. (2016), and C.A.R. 4.1.

         ¶7 We now reverse the trial court's suppression order and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         II. Analysis

         ¶8 The prosecution argues that the trial court improperly suppressed the evidence police obtained after conducting an investigatory stop of Reyes-Valenzuela. Because we conclude that the police had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop of Reyes-Valenzuela, we ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.