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State of South Dakota v. Courtney Jo Koch

August 1, 2012

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE,
v.
COURTNEY JO KOCH, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT LINCOLN COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE LAWRENCE E. LONG Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Severson, Justice.

CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON MAY 21, 2012

[¶1.] Courtney Koch was arrested for DUI on February 27, 2011. The magistrate judge entered an order suppressing all evidence obtained from the initial traffic stop. The State appealed to the circuit court. Koch moved to dismiss the appeal, which the circuit court denied. This Court granted Koch's petition for intermediate appeal. The issue is whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to entertain the State's appeal from the magistrate's order suppressing the evidence. Because the magistrate's order does not finally dispose of the case, it is not a final order appealable to the circuit court.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2.] The facts of this case are not in dispute. On February 27, 2011, Sioux Falls police responded to a report of a vehicle stuck in a snow bank. By the time they arrived, the vehicle had been pulled out of the snow. The vehicle's driver, Koch, was in the passenger seat of the pickup that had pulled her vehicle from the snow. The responding officer noted the odor of alcohol on Koch, not the driver of the pickup. The police investigated Koch for driving under the influence and eventually arrested her for that offense.

[¶3.] At a suppression hearing, the magistrate judge entered an order suppressing all evidence obtained from the stop of the vehicle. This included the results of all fluid tests and field-sobriety tests.*fn1 The State appealed to the circuit court. Koch moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the magistrate's intermediate order. The circuit court disagreed and denied Koch's motion to dismiss the appeal. Koch sought intermediate appeal from this Court of the order denying her motion to dismiss. This Court granted the petition for intermediate appeal.

Analysis

[¶4.] The issue presented is whether the circuit court has jurisdiction to hear an appeal by the State from a magistrate court's order suppressing evidence. Issues of jurisdiction are reviewed de novo. Sazama v. State ex rel. Muilenberg, 2007 S.D. 17, ¶ 9, 729 N.W.2d 335, 340.

[¶5.] Koch and the State agree that the relevant statutes contemplate appeal from magistrate to circuit court of final orders only. The relevant statutes provide:

Except where an appeal is denied by law, there shall be a right of appeal to the circuit court from any final order or judgment of the magistrate court. Appeals from such final orders and judgments must be taken within ten days after the attestation and filing of the order or judgment appealed from.

SDCL 15-38-22. "The circuit court has jurisdiction of appeals from all final judgments, decrees or orders of all courts of limited jurisdiction, inferior officers or tribunals, in the cases prescribed by statute." SDCL 16-6-10. "Unless appeal is denied by law, there is a right of appeal to the circuit court from any final order or judgment of the magistrate court, and such appeal shall be taken in the manner prescribed by law or rule for appeals to the circuit court." SDCL 16-12A-27.1.

[¶6.] Koch first argues that the order suppressing evidence is not a "final order" pursuant to these statutes because it is not dispositive--the criminal charge against Koch still exists after the magistrate court's order. On the other hand, the State argues that the order effectively disposes of the case, and is therefore a final order. As stated in the State's brief: "As a practical matter, the Order also acquits Koch because the Order leaves the State with no evidence upon which to obtain a conviction." The circuit court determined that the order, "which suppressed nearly all of the State's evidence, constitutes a 'final order' under SDCL 15-38-22." If the order is final, the motion to dismiss was properly denied; if not final, the circuit court erred in exercising jurisdiction over the appeal. This precise issue has not been explicitly addressed by this Court.

[¶7.] Defining "final" for purposes of appealability is not an effortless task.

"Of course appealability of a judgment depends on its being 'final' in the legalistic sense. But there is no more ambiguous word in all the legal lexicon." Fed. Trade Comm'n v. Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co., 344 U.S. 206, 215, 73 S. Ct. 245, 251, 97 L. Ed. 245 (1952) (Black, J., dissenting). Koch quotes Black's Law Dictionary 1206 (9th ed. 2009) for the following definition of "final order:" "An order that is dispositive of the entire case." Koch ...


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