Cotton v. State

In Cotton v. State, 2005 WY 115, 119 P.3d 931 (Wyo. 2005), an officer stopped a vehicle for a cracked windshield. The officer asked to see the driver's license and discovered it was suspended. Because there was an adult passenger in the vehicle, the officer called for back-up assistance. The first officer arrested the driver for driving with a suspended license. As he was getting into the patrol car, the driver asked the passenger in his vehicle to retrieve his shirt from the back seat and take it home with him. The second officer retrieved the shirt from the vehicle, patted it down before handing it to the passenger, felt something in the pocket, removed it and discovered a bag of crack cocaine. The Court upheld the denial of Mr. Cotton's suppression motion, concluding the search was reasonable under all of the circumstances because of officer safety concerns. The Court said: "Mr. Cotton had been arrested. The presence of an adult passenger presented a safety concern causing the arresting deputy to call for back-up assistance. When Mr. Cotton asked the passenger to retrieve the shirt, the assisting deputy was justified on the basis of safety concerns in retrieving the shirt himself rather than allowing the passenger to go back to the vehicle. He was further justified in checking the shirt for weapons before handing it to the passenger. Once he discovered there was something in the pocket of some substance (measuring approximately three inches in diameter and weighing 4.5 grams), he also was justified in removing it from the pocket before handing the shirt to the passenger."