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People v. Berdahl

Supreme Court of Colorado

April 29, 2019

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Petitioner
v.
Brent Richard BERDAHL, Respondent.

Page 438

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 439

          Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals, Court of Appeals Case No. 14CA72

         Attorneys for Petitioner: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, L. Andrew Cooper, Deputy Attorney General, Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Respondent: Megan A. Ring, Public Defender, Britta Kruse, Senior Deputy Public Defender, Denver, Colorado

          En Banc

         OPINION

         GABRIEL, JUSTICE 

         [¶1] This case principally asks us to decide whether Brent Berdahl’s federal and state constitutional rights were violated when a law enforcement officer required him to submit to a pat-down search before providing a consensual ride in the officer’s police car.[1] We now conclude that when Berdahl accepted the officer’s offer of a courtesy ride in the officer’s car and then submitted to a brief pat down for weapons before getting into the car, he, by his conduct, voluntarily consented to the officer’s limited pat-down search, and therefore, the search was constitutional.

         [¶2] Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the division below.

          I. Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] Early one January morning, a Weld County sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to an intersection in Weld County to check on the well-being of two people whose truck had broken down. About one-half to three-quarters of a mile from the reported location of the truck, he saw a man walking alongside the roadway. The deputy activated his emergency lights and pulled over, recognizing that the man was not dressed for the freezing temperatures and that he looked "close to hypothermic." The man, Berdahl, explained that his truck had run out of gas earlier that

Page 440

evening and that his significant other, J.P., was still in the truck, which was up the road. The deputy asked for identification, which Berdahl provided, and offered to let Berdahl get in the back of the deputy’s patrol car to warm up. Before allowing Berdahl to do so, however, the deputy conducted a brief pat-down search for weapons.

         [¶4] The deputy then drove to where Berdahl’s truck had run out of gas and asked J.P. if she wanted to get in the backseat of his car to warm up. She said that she did. The record does not reveal whether the deputy conducted a pat down of J.P. before she entered the car.

         [¶5] Upon learning that the batteries in Berdahl and J.P.’s mobile phones had died, the deputy attempted to make arrangements with several service stations in the area to see if they could deliver fuel. They all refused, however, ...


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