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State v. Woldt

Supreme Court of Nebraska

April 8, 2016

STATE OF NEBRASKA, APPELLEE,
v.
ADAM T. WOLDT, APPELLANT

Petition for further review from the Court of Appeals, MOORE, Chief Judge, and IRWIN and RIEDMANN, Judges, on appeal thereto from the District Court for Cuming County, James G. Kube, Judge, on appeal thereto from the County Court for Cuming County, Michael L. Longng, Judge. Judgment of Court of Appeals reversed, and cause remanded with directions.

Thomas B. Donner for appellant.

Douglas J. Peterson and Jon Bruning, Attorneys General, and Austin N. Relph for appellee.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGIGHT, CONNNNOLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, STACY, and KELCH, JJ.

OPINION

[293 Neb. 266] Heavican, C.J.

I. INTRODUCTION

Adam T. Woldt was convicted in the county court for Cuming County of driving under the influence and was sentenced to 6 months' probation. His conviction and sentence were affirmed by the district court. On appeal, the Nebraska Court of Appeals found that police did not act reasonably in stopping Woldt. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed Woldt's conviction and remanded the cause with directions.[1] Upon further review, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The facts leading up to Woldt's stop are as follows: Officer Randy Davie of the Wisner, Nebraska, police department received a report from dispatch of multiple traffic cones having been knocked down on Highway 275, the main street in Wisner. Dispatch indicated that the party responsible was driving a white Chevrolet pickup.

Davie stopped to pick up the cones. While doing so, he heard squealing tires nearby. Davie finished picking up the cones, returned to his cruiser, and began looking for the [293 Neb. 267] pickup. He found the pickup nearby and, recognizing the driver as Jacob Biggerstaff, made eye contact and motioned with his arm for Biggerstaff to pull over. Biggerstaff pulled up about four or five car lengths farther and parked along the opposite curb from Davie's location. Following Biggerstaff by one car length or less was another pickup, driven by Woldt. When Biggerstaff pulled his pickup over, Woldt also pulled his pickup over.

Davie approached Biggerstaff's vehicle, smelled the odor of alcohol, and saw signs that Biggerstaff might have been impaired. Davie brought Biggerstaff back to his patrol car.

At that time, the pickup driven by Woldt reversed into the intersection as if to drive away. Davie testified that he recognized Woldt " [b]y sight" as an employee of the city of Wisner. Davie motioned for Woldt to stop and to come over to Davie. Davie testified that he did not recall whether he verbally requested that Woldt stop, but both Woldt and Biggerstaff testified that he did so. Davie testified that he wanted to talk to Woldt because he thought that Woldt might have information about Biggerstaff's activities.

Davie approached Woldt's vehicle and smelled the odor of alcohol. Davie asked Woldt if he had been drinking, and Woldt put his head down. Davie asked Woldt if he was drunk, and Woldt turned off his vehicle and handed Davie his keys. Woldt was arrested for driving under the influence. Woldt stipulated that chemical test results of his breath registered an alcohol content of .148.

III. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 26, 2013, Woldt was charged in the county court for Cuming County with misdemeanor driving under the influence. He pled not guilty. Woldt then filed a motion to suppress his stop, detention, arrest, and any statements he had made. The motion to suppress was denied on December 3. Woldt was found guilty following a trial on stipulated facts and was sentenced to 6 months' probation.

[293 Neb. 268] Woldt appealed to the district court, sitting as an intermediate court of appeal. The district court affirmed.

Woldt then appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed his conviction and remanded the cause with directions. The Court of Appeals concluded that law enforcement's stop was not reasonable under Brown v. Texas[2] and Illinois v. Lidster.[3] Specifically, the Court of Appeals focused on the balancing test set forth in Brown, which requires a " weighing of the gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure, the degree to which the ...


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