Law School Case Brief
State v. Mitchell - 190 Wash. App. 919, 361 P.3d 205 (2015)
When reviewing a motion to suppress, appellate courts evaluate findings of fact under the substantial evidence standard. Conclusions of law are reviewed de novo. An appellate court may affirm the trial court for any reason supported by the record and the law.
Defendant Lavelle Xavier Mitchell had just stepped off a public bus when he was approached by a fare enforcement officer who asked him for proof that he had paid the fare. When Mitchell was unable to provide proof, the officer asked for identification. When Mitchell was unable to provide identification other than an oral self-identification, the officer radioed for assistance in verifying Mitchell's identity. A sheriff's deputy soon arrived who ran Mitchell's information and discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest. The deputy placed Mitchell under arrest and conducted a search of Mitchell incident to arrest. The search revealed that Mitchell was carrying two loaded firearms. Mitchell had previously been convicted as a juvenile of a serious offense that disqualified him from possessing firearms. Mitchell was convicted for unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree. On appeal, Mitchell argued he was unlawfully detained and the trial court erred by not suppressing evidence of the firearms.
Was Mitchell's conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm proper?
The court held that Mitchell's conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree was proper because his failure to provide identification triggered Wash. Rev. Code § 7.80.060. When the fare enforcement officer (FEO) asked Mitchell to show his proof of payment, he voluntarily responded that he did not still have his transfer, which was a civil infraction under Wash. Rev. Code § 35.58.580(2)(b), and which triggered Wash. Rev. Code § 35.58.585(2)(b)(ii), authorizing the FEO to request personal identification from him. After Mitchell was unable to provide government issued identification, the FEO had the authority to detain him for the time reasonably necessary to identify him. Considering the FEO's statutory authority under Wash. Rev. Code § 35.58.585(2)(b), if requesting proof of payment constituted a detention, it was a lawful detention.
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