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State v. Rivera

Supreme Court of Nebraska

September 15, 2017

State of Nebraska, appellee,
v.
Jonathan J. Rivera, appellant.

         1. Constitutional Law: Search and Seizure: Motions to Suppress: Appeal and Error. In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress based on a claimed violation of the Fourth Amendment, an appellate court applies a two-part standard of review. Regarding historical facts, an appellate court reviews the trial court's findings for clear error, but whether those facts trigger or violate Fourth Amendment protection is a question of law that an appellate court reviews independently of the trial court's determination.

         2. Motions to Suppress: Trial: Pretrial Procedure: Appeal and Error. When a motion to suppress is denied pretrial and again during trial on renewed objection, an appellate court considers all the evidence, both from trial and from the hearings on the motion to suppress.

         3. Constitutional Law: Search and Seizure. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and article I, § 7, of the Nebraska Constitution guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.

         4. ___: ___. For the protections of the Fourth Amendment to apply, a seizure must have occurred.

         5. ___: ___. A seizure in the Fourth Amendment context occurs only if, in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he or she was not free to leave.

         6. Police Officers and Sheriffs: Search and Seizure. A police officer may make a seizure by a show of authority and without the use of physical force.

         7. Constitutional Law: Police Officers and Sheriffs: Search and Seizure. There is no seizure without actual submission; otherwise, there is at most an attempted seizure, so far as the Fourth Amendment is concerned. Thus, a seizure requires either a police officer's application of physical force to a suspect or a suspect's submission to an officer's show of authority.

         [297 Neb. 710] 8. Witnesses: Evidence: Appeal and Error. In reviewing a trial court's factual findings for clear error, an appellate court does not pass on the credibility of witnesses or reweigh the evidence presented.

         9. Police Officers and Sheriffs: Search and Seizure: Intent. A law enforcement officer's subjective intent is irrelevant for determining whether a seizure did in fact occur.

         10. Police Officers and Sheriffs: Search and Seizure: Motor Vehicles. A seizure does not occur simply because a law enforcement officer approaches an individual who voluntarily stopped his or her vehicle.

         11. Judgments: Appeal and Error. A correct result will not be set aside merely because the lower court applied the wrong reasoning in reaching that result.

         Petition for further review from the Court of Appeals. Moore, Chief Judge, and Riedmann and Bishop, Judges, on appeal thereto from the District Court for Lancaster County, Andrew R. Jacobsen, Judge, on appeal thereto from the County Court for Lancaster County, Thomas W. Fox, Judge. Judgment of Court of Appeals affirmed.

          Mark E. Rappl for appellant.

          Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Kimberly A. Klein for appellee.

          Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Kelch, and Funke, JJ.

          CASSEL, J.

         INTRODUCTION

         The county court overruled Jonathan J. Rivera's motion to suppress. In doing so, it applied the community caretak-ing exception to the Fourth Amendment.[1] On further review, we conclude that the initial police-citizen encounter did not amount to a seizure. Because the encounter began without a seizure, it was not necessary to invoke the community caretak-ing exception. We affirm the decision of the Nebraska Court of Appeals, albeit on different grounds.

         [297 Neb. 711] BACKGROUND

         Police-Citizen Encounter

         We first describe the scene of the encounter. At approximately 10:35 p.m. on May 24, 2014, two patrolling Nebraska Game and Parks Commission conservation officers came across two groups of people on opposite sides of a paved road. According to all of the testimony, the scene was very dark at the time. The road was within ...


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