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State v. Smith, 2019 UT App 75 (May 2, 2019)

May 2, 2019

This appeal centered on the court’s application of the community caretaking doctrine.  Police officers found the defendant sleeping in his vehicle in a restaurant parking lot in the early morning.  Affirming the denial of a motion to suppress, the court of appeals held that the community caretaking doctrine justified the warrantless seizure, because the officers were checking on the defendant’s welfare on a cold evening, the circumstances suggested that the defendant did not intend to leave, the seizure was brief duration, and it appeared to be motivated by the safety of the defendant and members of the community.  The dissent framed the community caretaking doctrine more narrowly and would have held that the manner in which the seizure was conducted could not be justified by the doctrine.