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State v. Hutchins

Supreme Court of Vermont

February 6, 2015

State of Vermont
v.
Wayne Hutchins

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On Appeal from Superior Court, Rutland Unit, Criminal Division. Theresa S. DiMauro, J.

William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, and David Tartter and Ultan Doyle, Assistant Attorneys General, Montpelier, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Matthew F. Valerio, Defender General, and Joshua S. O'Hara and Sara Puls, Appellate Defenders, Montpelier, for Defendant-Appellant.

Present: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund and Robinson, JJ., and Hayes, Supr. J., Specially Assigned.

OPINION

Page 907

Skoglund, J.

[¶1]  This suppression-of-the-evidence case asks us whether all turns of the steering wheel require a signal. We respond that they do not. Defendant appeals the criminal division's denial of his motion to suppress and dismiss his charge for driving under the influence (DUI). In that motion, defendant claimed the evidence underlying his DUI charge should have been suppressed because the arresting officers lacked reasonable suspicion to justify an investigative stop of his vehicle. The trial court found that defendant violated Vermont's turn-signal statute, so the arresting officers had justification to pull him over. It accordingly denied defendant's motion, and defendant now raises the same argument on appeal. We hold that defendant did not violate that statute, and therefore reverse.

[¶2] In its order denying defendant's motion to suppress and dismiss, the court found the following facts. On July 12, 2012, at approximately 8:54 p.m., Corporal David Butterfield and Officer Michael Winkler were on routine patrol together in the Town of Brandon. The officers observed

Page 908

defendant's vehicle and ran a record check, which revealed that one of the male registered owners' license was suspended. The officers followed the vehicle as it drove east on Park Street and approached the intersection of Park Street, Country Club Road, and Smalley Road.

[¶3] The officers observed defendant stop his vehicle at the Park Street stop sign and then activate the right turn signal. The vehicle then " continued across the intersection making the slight turn onto Smalley Road without making a complete right turn onto Country Club Road." Corporal Butterfield told Officer Winkler, who was driving, to stop defendant. When Officer Winkler asked why, Corporal Butterfield responded, " not putting on the turn signal 100 feet before the stop sign." Officer Winkler pulled defendant over. As a result of the stop, defendant was charged with DUI, in violation of 23 V.S.A. § 1201.

[¶4] Defendant filed a motion to suppress all evidence underlying his DUI charge on grounds that he was stopped illegally by Corporal Butterfield and Officer Winkler. The trial court denied that motion. Defendant filed a motion to reconsider, which the court also denied, without discussion. Defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea in which he reserved ...


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