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People v. Brown

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

June 24, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
Alexis Antonio Brown. Defendant-Appellee

          Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court El Paso County District Court Case No. 18CR4295 Honorable Jann P. DuBois, Judge.

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

          Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Megan A. Ring, Public Defender Jeremy Wooten, Deputy Public Defender Colorado Springs, Colorado

          OPINION

          Boatright Justice.

         ¶1 While on patrol, a police officer heard a man and woman arguing behind the gate of a storage facility. When the officer called dispatch to report the disturbance, he was informed that a call had just come in regarding a possible domestic disturbance involving a man named Alexis Brown at that same location. Seconds later, the yelling stopped, and the officer saw a man walking away from the storage facility; the man was the only visible person in the area. The officer stopped the man and asked his name. When the man gave his name as Alexis Brown, the officer realized that it matched the name given for the possible domestic disturbance. The officer then ran a records check on Brown's name and found that there was an active warrant for his arrest, at which point Brown was taken into custody; a subsequent search revealed methamphetamine in his pocket.

         ¶2 Brown was not charged for the domestic disturbance, but he was charged based on the methamphetamine. Prior to trial, the court concluded that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to initially stop Brown, and it thus suppressed all evidence arising from the encounter. The People filed this interlocutory appeal. We now reverse.

         ¶3 We conclude that the officer had reasonable articulable suspicion that Brown was involved in an act of domestic violence. Hence, we reverse the trial court's suppression order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶4 Officer Fernandes was in his police car, with the windows down, on patrol near a storage facility in Colorado Springs. As he passed the storage facility, he heard what he believed to be a man and woman yelling on the other side of the facility's locked gate, but he could not see the people. The officer contacted police dispatch to advise them of this disturbance. Dispatch informed the officer that they were currently receiving a call regarding a possible domestic disturbance at his location; specifically, a woman had called to report that her significant other, Alexis Brown, had damaged the windshield of her car. When the officer finished communicating with dispatch, the yelling had stopped. At this time, the officer saw a man leaving the area; the man was the only person the officer saw. The officer contacted the man and asked him to identify himself. The man identified himself as Alexis Brown and provided his birthdate.

         ¶5 The officer ran a records check on Brown's name and birthdate, which indicated that there was an active warrant for Brown's arrest. Another officer arrived on the scene, took Brown into custody, and brought him to jail. While Brown was being searched prior to being put into the jail, methamphetamine was found in his pocket. Ultimately, the prosecution did not bring charges regarding the reported domestic disturbance, but it did charge Brown with multiple crimes based on the methamphetamine found in his pocket.[1]

         ¶6 Brown moved to suppress the evidence arising from his encounter with the officer, including the subsequent discovery of methamphetamine. He argued that the police had no reason to stop him. The court granted his motion, stating that "[t]here was no nexus between this alleged criminal activity and the defendant that would have justified an investigatory stop. There's no description that was even given to the officer of an alleged individual [who] had supposedly committed these acts."

         ¶7 The People filed a timely interlocutory appeal.

         II. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

         ¶8 Pursuant to C.A.R. 4.1 and section 16-12-102(2), C.R.S. (2018), the People may bring an interlocutory appeal under these circumstances.[2] The review of a suppression order presents us with a mixed question of law and fact; therefore, we accept the trial court's findings of fact that are supported by competent evidence, but we review the application of ...


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