Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court Arapahoe County
District Court Case No. 17CR3478 Honorable Andrew C. Baum,
Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: George H. Brauchler,
District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District Jacob Edson,
Chief Deputy District Attorney Centennial, Colorado
Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Megan A. Ring, Public
Defender Alaina Almond, Deputy Public Defender Stephanie
Howard, Deputy Public Defender Centennial, Colorado
As part of an extensive narcotics investigation that spanned
almost all of 2017, law enforcement deputies obtained arrest
warrants for the defendant, Amber Anne Threlkel, and her
significant other, Robert Allen, based on their alleged
distribution of controlled substances. The deputies executed
the warrants on December 7, 2017. That evening, they observed
a truck owned by Allen leave the residence he shared with
Threlkel; they suspected that Allen and Threlkel were both in
the truck. As the deputies attempted to perform a traffic
stop, the truck evaded them, causing them to momentarily lose
sight of it. But they eventually spotted the truck again,
stopped it, and apprehended the driver, Allen, within a mile
of the home. Although there was no passenger in the truck,
Threlkel was located a couple of hundred yards from it,
attempting to hitch a ride. It was a frigid and snowy night,
the roads were slippery, and there was no easy access on foot
between the home and the location of the stop. A deputy who
recognized Threlkel detained her. Threlkel was later arrested
pursuant to her outstanding warrant.
Threlkel was charged with multiple drug-related offenses.
Before trial, she filed several motions to suppress. The
trial court granted one of them, finding that the deputies
lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop her. The
court thus suppressed all evidence and observations derived
from Threlkel's stop, including her statements. It later
clarified its ruling at the prosecution's request. It
explained that its suppression order included the
deputies' observations and investigation before
they contacted Threlkel. Therefore, observed the court, the
prosecution would not be allowed to mention at trial that
Threlkel was even at the location where she was detained.
We now reverse. We conclude that the deputies had reasonable,
articulable suspicion to detain Threlkel. We further conclude
that, even if the trial court's contrary ruling had been
correct, there is no authority to suppress the deputies'
observations and investigation before they contacted
Threlkel. Accordingly, we remand this matter to the trial
court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Facts and Procedural History
In early 2017, deputies from the Arapahoe County
Sheriff's Office narcotics team launched an extensive
drug-related investigation of Threlkel and Allen. At some
point, the deputies obtained arrest warrants for the couple
based on their alleged distribution of controlled substances.
At approximately 7 p.m. on December 7, 2017, Deputy Wood and
other narcotics deputies were surveilling the home shared by
Threlkel and Allen, looking for an opportunity to execute the
warrants. They were hoping to catch Threlkel and Allen away
from the home. Allen's truck was parked in front of the
residence. While the deputies did not see anyone enter the
truck, they noticed that it remained outside the home with
its headlights on for a long period of time. This led Deputy
Wood to suspect that both Allen and Threlkel were in the
When the truck drove away from the home, the narcotics team
asked Deputy Rivers, a patrol deputy, to conduct a traffic
stop and contact the occupants of the truck pursuant to the
outstanding arrest warrants. Although he did not have
information about the identity of the truck's occupants,
Deputy Rivers was told that the driver was believed to be
male and that the passenger was believed to be female.
As Deputy Rivers arrived at the residential community where
the home is located, he started looking for the truck. It was
snowing, there were freezing temperatures, and the roads were
icy. Upon spotting the truck, Deputy Rivers turned around so
that he could get behind it. While he and other deputies were
in pursuit, the truck started driving erratically and evading
them. The truck then pulled over, only to take off again. The
deputies temporarily lost sight of it, but located it shortly
thereafter. They subsequently observed the truck crash
through a private gate. They also saw what appeared to be a
white bag fly out of the passenger window, which supported
their belief that there was a passenger in the truck. The
truck eventually stopped within a mile of the home and Allen
was apprehended. There was no passenger in the truck.
Moments after Allen was detained, a nearby driver informed
Deputy Rivers that she had just seen a white female in a
white coat walking southbound, away from the location of the
truck, trying to hitch a ride. Deputy Rivers then saw a white
female wearing a white coat on foot within a couple of
hundred yards of where the truck had stopped; there was no
easy access by foot between the home and that area. Because
Allen was being held in his patrol car, Deputy Rivers decided
to contact the female on foot. However, a member of the
narcotics team, Deputy Daly, beat him to the punch.
Deputy Daly did not testify at the hearing. However, Deputy
Rivers was aware that Deputy Daly had been involved in this
investigation, knew about the arrest warrants, and could
recognize Threlkel. More importantly, by the time Deputy
Rivers reached the female, Deputy Daly "had already
visually identified her" as Threlkel. Deputy Daly
temporarily detained Threlkel in order to confirm her arrest
warrant. Once the warrant was verified, Threlkel was
Threlkel was subsequently charged with multiple drug-related
offenses. Before trial, she filed three motions to suppress.
The trial court held an evidentiary hearing during which the
prosecution presented testimony from Deputy Rivers and Deputy
Wood. Threlkel did not present any testimonial evidence.
The trial court found that both deputies were credible and
that their testimony had no reliability issues. Yet, it ruled
that the deputies violated Threlkel's rights under the
Fourth Amendment because they lacked a reasonable,
articulable suspicion to detain her. The trial court seemed
troubled by the fact that Deputy Daly did not testify since
he was the deputy "who [was] able to identify Ms.
Threlkel as being the one the warrant was valid for."
Notably, the trial court acknowledged Deputy Rivers's
uncontroverted testimony that "Deputy Daly . . . knew
that the white female that was pointed out by [the] unknown
driver was Ms. Threlkel." But it nevertheless suppressed
all evidence and observations derived from Threlkel's
stop, including her statements, because it felt that there
were important details missing in the testimony provided by
Deputies Rivers and Wood.
At a later status hearing, the trial court clarified its
ruling at the prosecution's request. It indicated that
its suppression order went beyond the evidence and
observations derived from Threlkel's stop-the order also
included the deputies' observations and investigation
before they contacted Threlkel. According to the
court, Threlkel was "not arrested at the scene"
because "[t]here's no evidence to indicate that she
was even there." Therefore, concluded the court, the
prosecution would not be allowed to introduce evidence at
trial that the deputies contacted Threlkel at all.
The prosecution then brought this interlocutory