The Appellate Group

State v. Speights

State v. Speights, 2021 UT 56 (Petersen, J.)


Defendant was found passed out in someone’s garage with a BAC of 0.17 after homeowners complained that someone had been banging on their windows and door in the middle of the night. Defendant’s car was parked half on the grass, half over a sidewalk right outside the house. Its dome light was on, there was alcohol in the vehicle, and the driver door was latched but not shut. Officers stuck their hands on the car’s engine and up its wheel well and later testified that the engine was hot. Defendant was arrested for and convicted of driving under the influence. At trial, the trial court denied her motion to suppress evidence after she argued that the officers unreasonably searched her car when they felt its temperature. On direct appeal, The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, holding:

  • Warrantless searches are presumptively unreasonable, and the district court erred in its analysis. But the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. Here, even if the officers’ touch of the vehicle were a search, the automobile exception applies. And the final touch of the vehicle was supported by probable cause and provides an independent source of the evidence.

Read the full court opinion