APPEAL FROM THE CALHOUN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CR 2012-32-1. HONORABLE HAMILTON HOBBS SINGLETON, JUDGE.
Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: LeaAnn J. Adams, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellant.
Robinson & Zakrzewski, P.A., by: Luke Zakrzewski, for appellee.
JIM HANNAH, Chief Justice.
The State brings this interlocutory appeal pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Appellate Procedure--Criminal 3 (2014) and contends that the circuit court erred in granting appellee Stephen Crane's motion to suppress. On appeal, the State contends that, because the material-witness rule does not apply to search-and-seizure cases, the circuit court erred as a matter of law by concluding that additional officer testimony was required to support the " pat down" of Crane. The State also contends that the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it found that a warrant was required to search the locked safe discovered in Crane's minivan. We dismiss the appeal in part and reverse and remand to the circuit court in part.
On October 25, 2012, law enforcement officers in Calhoun County arrested Robert Martin after discovering a large quantity of methamphetamine in his vehicle incident to a traffic stop on the parking lot of an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission facility. Martin told officers that another individual, later identified as appellee, Stephen Crane, had arranged to purchase $5,000 worth of methamphetamine from him in the next hour, and Martin allowed officers to view text messages that Crane had sent him. After Crane sent a text message to Martin to arrange a meeting, officers using Martin's phone responded to Crane via text message and told him to come to a location in Calhoun County " to do the deal."
Crane arrived at the agreed-upon location, exited his minivan, and walked to the front of Martin's vehicle. Shortly thereafter, officers asked, " What's your name?" When Crane answered, " Steve Crane," officers took custody of him and conducted a pat-down search of his person that resulted in the discovery of methamphetamine in his pocket. Officers then arrested Crane and searched his minivan, which led to the discovery of a safe containing $5,000, drug paraphernalia, a small baggie of suspected methamphetamine, and a .32-caliber Smith and Wesson pistol.
On November 30, 2012, the State charged Crane with possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, unlawful use of a communication device, and simultaneous possession of drugs and a firearm. Crane filed a motion to suppress and an amended motion to suppress, arguing that all items discovered during the search of his person and his minivan should be excluded. The State responded, and the circuit court held a hearing on the motion. Darrell Sells, an agent with the Thirteenth Judicial Drug Task Force, was the sole witness at the hearing. According to Sells, " [o]nce we arrived [at the scene], I believe it was Officer Houston Bradshaw [who] patted him down. The wildlife officer advised me he's got meth in his pocket."  Sells stated that he observed the " pat down" of Crane, that he saw what appeared to be methamphetamine removed from Crane's person, and that the discovery of the suspected methamphetamine gave officers probable cause to search Crane's minivan. Further, Sells stated that, " in a sense," the minivan was searched for the safety of officers because
" [a]ny time you're dealing with methamphetamine there is a chance you could have chemicals of different types." At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court ordered further briefing.
Meanwhile, Martin, who had also been charged with drug offenses, filed a motion to suppress, arguing that all evidence seized and statements made by him before and after his arrest on October 25, 2012, should be suppressed. The circuit court entered an order granting Martin's motion to suppress statements and denying his motion to suppress evidence. Thereafter, the circuit court entered an order granting Crane's motion to suppress, finding that all evidence seized or statements made by Crane based on information received from Martin should be suppressed under the doctrine of the fruit of the poisonous tree. The State requested reconsideration, and in a supplemental order granting Crane's motion to suppress, the circuit court stated that, although it agreed with the State that Crane was " without standing, under the current state of our law, to rely on the failures of law enforcement in [Martin's] case, suppression of the contents of the safe found in [Crane's] vehicle and the evidence seized as a result of an alleged 'pat down' must still be the result" because there were no exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless search of the safe and there was " no valid or tangible evidence that the 'pat down' of Crane was legal or appropriate." The State appeals the circuit court's supplemental order granting Crane's motion to suppress.
As a threshold matter, we must determine the propriety of this appeal under Rule 3 of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure--Criminal. Pursuant to Rule 3, the State may take an interlocutory appeal " from a pretrial order in a felony prosecution which . . . grants a motion under Ark. R. Crim. P. 16.2 to suppress seized evidence." Ark. R. App. P.--Crim. 3(a)(1). As this court has frequently observed, there is a significant and inherent difference between appeals brought by criminal defendants and those brought on behalf of the State. E.g., State v. Threadgill, 2011 Ark. 91, at 6, 382 S.W.3d 657, 660; State v. Nichols, 364 Ark. 1, 4, 216 S.W.3d 114, 116 (2005); State v. Pruitt, 347 Ark. 355, 359, 64 S.W.3d 255, 258 (2002). The former is a matter of right, whereas the latter is granted to the State pursuant to Rule 3. See, e.g., State v. Guthrie, 341 Ark. 624, 628, 19 S.W.3d 10, 13 (2000). Appeals by the State are limited to instances in which the court's holding would be important to the correct and uniform administration of the criminal law. See, e.g., State v. Rowe, 374 Ark. 19, 22, 285 S.W.3d 614, 617 (2008). This court has held that the correct and uniform administration of the criminal law is at issue when the question presented is solely a question of law independent of the facts in the case appealed. See, e.g., State v. Myers, 2012 Ark. 453, at 4. Therefore, an appeal that turns on facts unique to the case or involves a mixed question of law and fact is not a proper appeal. See id. at 5.
In this case, the State has raised two issues for our review. First, the State contends that, because the material-witness rule does not apply to search-and-seizure cases, the circuit court erred as a matter of law by concluding that additional officer ...