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State v. Sledge

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

May 14, 2013

State of Nebraska, appellee,
Claude Sledge, appellant.


Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: John A. Colborn, Judge.

Dennis R. Keefe, Lancaster County Public Defender, and on brief, Sarah P. Newell, for appellant.

Jon Bruning, Attorney General, and Nathan A. Liss for appellee.

Sievers, Pirtle, and Riedmann, Judges.


Pirtle, Judge.


Claude Sledge appeals from an order of the district court for Lancaster County overruling his motion to suppress evidence and finding him guilty of driving during revocation, first offense, after a stipulated bench trial. On appeal, Sledge argues that the district court erred in overruling his motion to suppress, finding there was sufficient evidence to sustain his conviction, and imposing an excessive sentence. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm his conviction and sentence.


The State filed an information charging Sledge with driving during revocation, first offense. Sledge filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to the traffic stop that led to his arrest, alleging the officer lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to justify the stop.

The evidence adduced at the suppression hearing established that on July 14, 2011, at approximately 6 a.m., Lancaster County Deputy Sheriff Jeremy Schwarz was on duty in his marked patrol car and was parked in the median of a four-lane divided highway in Lincoln monitoring traffic. Schwarz saw a white Cadillac with tinted windows go past him traveling southbound. Schwarz pulled out of the median, caught up to the Cadillac, and then ran the Cadillac's license plate number using his in-car laptop computer.

Schwarz testified that through the use of the computer in his car, he can access local and statewide law enforcement databases. These databases can be used to search various information, including information on a particular vehicle and information on an individual, such as criminal history, driver's license status, and warrant history. When a search is performed, the search result contains information pertinent to the inquiry, as well as hyperlinks to related information.

Schwarz testified that when he ran the Cadillac's license plate number in this case, he discovered that it was registered to a white female named "Brooke Jarolimek." Schwarz noticed that the driver of the Cadillac, the only person in the vehicle, was a black male. He then looked up the citation history for the Cadillac and saw that three different people had been cited in the vehicle in the last year in Lancaster County. The most recent individual cited was a black male named "Kenith Colbert, " who had been cited 3 months earlier. Schwarz then selected a hyperlink next to Colbert's name which took him to Colbert's "face page." The "face page" screen had a picture of Colbert and personal information, such as his date of birth, and a physical description. The description of Colbert said he has black hair and brown eyes, is 5 feet 7 inches tall, and weighs 144 pounds. Based on his date of birth, he was 21 years old at the time. In his photograph, he has short hair, a mustache, and a short beard.

Schwarz next selected the hyperlink for Colbert's driver's license information and learned that Colbert's license was suspended. This screen also had Colbert's driver's license picture, showing him with short hair, a mustache, and a short beard as in the other picture, but his driver's license lists him as weighing 157 pounds.

Schwarz then drove up next to the Cadillac and looked at the driver to see if the person driving the vehicle was Colbert based on the pictures and physical description he had of Colbert. Schwarz testified that he viewed the driver for a few seconds, but was able to see only the side of the driver's face, because the driver did not look at him. He testified that he focused on the facial features of the driver, including the facial hair, jaw structure, and the hair on the head. Schwarz also testified that the lighting conditions were low at that time of the morning and that there was a slight tint on the Cadillac's windows.

Schwarz testified that based on the information available to him at the time, the driver fit the description of Colbert, and that he initiated a traffic stop. Once the Cadillac stopped, Schwarz asked the driver for his driver's license and vehicle registration. The driver did not have identification with him but told Schwarz his name and that his driver's license was suspended. It was at this point that Schwarz learned that the driver of the Cadillac was Sledge, not Colbert. Schwarz went back to his patrol car to ...

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