OF JUDGMENT: 04/13/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN, III.
COURT ATTORNEYS: MATTHEW ALLEN BALDRIDGE BENJAMIN FREEMAN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: TODD A. COKER.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
BILLY L. GORE.
Kendall Martin was convicted of possession of more than one
kilogram of marijuana with intent to distribute. Martin was
sentenced as a subsequent drug offender and as a nonviolent
habitual offender to sixty years in the custody of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections without the possibility
of parole. On appeal, Martin argues that the trial court
erred by admitting the evidence because the initial traffic
stop was not based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion
and the stop was unreasonably extended in violation of
Martin's Fourth Amendment rights. Martin also argues that
the State failed to prove that he was a habitual offender
under Mississippi Code Section 99-19-81, and that the trial
court erred in sentencing him as such.
Around 4:55 p.m. on March 27, 2013, Officer Jason Johns, a
deputy for the Rankin County Sheriff's Department, was
traveling on I-20 eastbound when he observed Kendall Martin
cross over the right lane fog line. Martin was traveling in a
Chevrolet SUV in front of Officer Johns. At that point,
Officer Johns, according to his standard procedure, pulled
beside Martin to see if he was wearing a seatbelt and how
many occupants were in the vehicle. Officer Johns then
dropped back behind Martin, observed him hit the line or
"g[e]t real close to it" again, and then initiated
the traffic stop. The second encroachment upon the fog line
was recorded on Officer Johns's car camera.
Officer Johns approached the passenger-side window. When he
leaned in to ask for Martin's driver's license and
proof of insurance, he could smell an overwhelming odor of
air fresheners and a faint odor of marijuana coming from the
car. He testified that, in his experience, people who
transport drugs use air fresheners to cover the odor. Officer
Johns worked as a sergeant and K-9 handler for the Flowood
Police Department. He also was a sworn deputy for the Rankin
County Sheriff's Department on the drug task force. He
testified that he has had hundreds of classes in narcotics
and criminal interdiction, and he had "been doing drug
interdiction work pretty much [his] entire career."
Officer Johns asked Martin to step out of the vehicle while
he radioed in Martin's driver's license information.
Martin told Officer Johns that he was driving back to
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from Austin, Texas, where he had been
visiting his cousin for a few days. Martin also handed
Officer Johns a personal insurance card for a rental vehicle,
which Johns considered suspicious. When the dispatcher
radioed back that Martin's driver's license was
valid, Officer Johns informed Martin that he had smelled
marijuana in the vehicle. He then asked Martin if he could
search the car, to which Martin replied, "it don't
matter." Before searching the vehicle, Officer Johns
asked Martin if he or his cousin had smoked in the vehicle,
if anyone else besides Martin had used the vehicle, and if
there were any guns in the vehicle. Martin informed Officer
Johns that he had driven to Austin in one rental vehicle and
had traded it in the night before in Austin to drive back in
the bigger SUV.
The smell of marijuana became much stronger when Officer
Johns opened the passenger's side door. When he opened
the back hatch, the odor of marijuana "nearly blew [him]
down." Officer Johns found a black duffel bag that felt
like it contained bricks. He testified that he could tell
just by feeling the bag that there were illegal narcotics in
the bag. Martin was then placed under arrest and read his
Miranda rights. When Officer Johns opened the
duffel bag, he found 9.9 pounds of marijuana.
Martin filed a motion to suppress evidence of the drugs found
during the search because the search and seizure violated his
Fourth Amendment rights. Martin argued that Officer Johns did
not have reasonable suspicion to stop him, and that the stop
was in reality motivated by racial profiling. He also argued
that Officer Johns illegally extended the stop to search the
car after the investigation of the traffic violation had
concluded. At the suppression hearing, Officer Johns
testified that he pulled Martin over for careless driving
after observing him twice cross or bump the fog line, which
he believed to constitute a violation of Mississippi Code
Section 63-3-1213. The trial court found that there was
sufficient probable cause for the stop and there was no
unreasonable delay in the search, and, therefore, denied the
motion to suppress. After a jury trial, Martin was found
guilty of possession of more than one kilogram of marijuana
with intent to distribute. Because Martin had four prior
felony drug convictions, the trial court sentenced him as a
habitual offender and subsequent drug offender to sixty years
without the possibility of parole in the custody of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections.
"Whether probable cause or reasonable suspicion exists
is subject to a de novo review. But the Court limits the de
novo review of the trial court's determination to
'historical facts reviewed under the substantial evidence
and clearly erroneous standards.'" Eaddy v.
State, 63 So.3d 1209, 1212 (Miss. 2011) (quoting
Dies v. State, 926 So.2d 910, 917 (Miss. 2006)).
The trial court did not err in denying Martin's
motion to suppress the evidence.
Officer Johns had sufficient probable cause to stop
Martin for careless driving.
Martin argues that there was no probable cause or reasonable
suspicion for the traffic stop, and that the supposed traffic
violation was pretextual. Because courts have seemed to
confuse the standards of "probable cause" and
"reasonable suspicion" and neither party
distinguished which standard is proper, we will first attempt
to sort out the distinctions between the two.
An officer may make a brief, investigatory stop of a vehicle
if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the
occupants of the vehicle have been, are currently, or are
about to be involved in criminal activity. See United
States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 227, 105 S.Ct. 675,
679-80, 83 L.Ed.2d 604 (1985); Dies v. State, 926
So.2d 910, 918 (¶ 22) (Miss. 2006); Floyd v. City of
Crystal Springs, 749 So.2d 110, 114 (¶ 16) (Miss.
1999). The suspicion must be "grounded in specific and
articulable facts . . . ." Eaddy v. State, 63
So.3d 1209, 1213 (Miss. 2011) (citing Walker v.
State, 881 So.2d 820, 826 (Miss. 2004); Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968);
Haddox, 636 So.2d at 1235).
The Court has explained reasonable suspicion as follows:
Grounds for reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory
stop generally come from two sources: either the
officers' "personal observation" or an
informant's tip. Williamson v. State, 876 So.2d
353, 355 (Miss. 2004) (citation omitted). See also
Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 270, 120 S.Ct. 1375, 146
L.Ed.2d 254 (2000). The officer's personal observation
includes information from other law-enforcement personnel.
See Dies, 926 So.2d at 920 ("[R]easonable
suspicion . . . can be transferred from officer to officer. .
. ."). And an informant's tip may provide reasonable
suspicion if accompanied by some indication of reliability;
for example, reliability may be shown from the officer's
independent investigation of the informant's information.
Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. at 270, 120 S.Ct. 1375.
See, e.g., McClellan v. State, 34 So.3d 548, 552
(Miss. 2010) (valid investigatory stop where officers further
investigated "vague" information received from
informant before making the stop); Burchfield v.
State, 892 So.2d 191, 194-95 (Miss. 2004) (reasonable
suspicion for investigatory stop supported by store
clerk's tip that described defendants who had purchased
precursors and by officer's personal observation of
defendants' purchases in vehicle described by clerk);
Williamson, 876 So.2d at 356 (reasonable suspicion
for investigatory stop supported by tip from unnamed
informant that described, in relevant part, the defendant and
his vehicle and tag number, and by officer's subsequent
verification of number).
But the scope of an investigatory stop is limited. Floyd
v. State, 500 So.2d 989, 992 (Miss. 1986). The scope of
a search or seizure must relate to the initial circumstances
that called for police action. Haddox, 636 So.2d at
1234. Thus, when police detention exceeds the scope of the
stop, the stop becomes a "seizure, " and the State
must show probable cause. Floyd, 500 So.2d at 992
Eaddy, 63 So.3d at 1213-14.
Thus, reasonable suspicion is based on something less than
the personal observation of a violation of law. Reasonable
suspicion is the standard for a stop or search based on
suspicious activity that does not yet amount to criminal
activity, but which compels an officer to ...