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Spraglin v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

March 11, 2015



Gary W. Potts, for appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


Dontel Spraglin appeals his conviction of two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia from the Jefferson County Circuit Court. He filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the evidence was obtained pursuant to an illegal detention and therefore inadmissible. On appeal, Spraglin asserts that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. We disagree and affirm.

At a hearing on the motion to suppress, Officer Brett Talley, of the Vice and Narcotics Division of the Pine Bluff Police Department, testified that on October 28, 2008, he and several other officers were at the Crown Inn Motel investigating complaints of drug activity on the premises. He explained that as he was ascending the stairs in the enclosed stairwell of the Crown Inn, he noticed a strong smell of raw, unburnt marijuana that grew stronger as Spraglin approached and passed by him. Officer Billy Reed testified he was behind Officer Talley in the stairwell, and he also smelled the raw marijuana that "hit you like a wall as he was coming down." As Spraglin approached Officer Reed, Reed said to Spraglin, "I smell dope. Do you have anything on you?" Officer Reed did not recall whether he put his hands up in a "stop" motion, but he believed Spraglin voluntarily stopped because he, Officer Reed, stopped walking. According to Officer Reed, Spraglin said nothing in reply and produced a clear plastic bag from his jacket and gave it to him. The open-ended sandwich bag was sealed with a twist tie and contained a leafy, green, vegetable substance that was later identified as marijuana. Officer Reed then placed Spraglin under arrest and searched him. In addition to three more bags of marijuana, Officer Reed found a bag containing an off-white rocklike substance, later identified as crack cocaine, and a set of digital scales.

Spraglin offered conflicting testimony at the hearing. He stated that after he passed Officer Talley in the stairwell, Officer Talley called down the stairs to the other police officers, "Stop him because I smell marijuana." Spraglin admitted he had been smoking marijuana earlier that evening before he entered the stairwell. He stated another officer stopped him first, but that it was Officer Reed who searched his pockets, and then asked what he had on him, where he was going, and what his name was. Spraglin testified he gave Officer Reed his identification but did not give him the bag of marijuana as Officer Reed had testified. Spraglin asserted Officer Reed found one bag of marijuana after searching his pockets and then arrested him. Spraglin stated that Officer Reed continued to search him after he was handcuffed and that was when Officer Reed found the rest of the contraband.

I. Circuit Court Ruling

The circuit court denied the motion to suppress, stating from the bench that Officer Reed's questioning and detention of Spraglin was proper under Rule 3.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure:

We find that the smelling of the marijuana gave rise to reasonable suspicion that the defendant was in possession of marijuana. Certainly, it does not give rise to how much. I don't think that we have any rules that would require a police officer to know how much it is, and thus know whether it was a felony amount or a misdemeanor amount, to that. . . .
With regards to 3.1, stopping and detaining, I believe that the defendant testified that it was only about a minute to a minute-and-a-half that he was arrested after the bag had been determined to be on his possession. So, therefore, it clearly was not anywhere near in excess of fifteen minutes. . . .
Therefore the Court finds that the acts of the officers were reasonable suspicion but not sufficient for an arrest, but they were sufficient for officers to inquire if the defendant was engaged in unlawful activity[.]

II. Standard of Review

In reviewing a circuit court's denial of a motion to suppress, we conduct a de novo review based on the totality of the circumstances, reviewing findings of historical fact for clear error and determining whether those facts give rise to reasonable suspicion or probable cause, giving due weight to inferences drawn by the circuit court and proper deference to the circuit court's findings. Yarbrough v. State, 370 Ark. 31, 257 S.W.3d 50 (2007). Arkansas appellate courts defer to the superior position of the circuit court to evaluate the credibility of witnesses at a suppression hearing. Ilo v. State, 350 Ark. 138, 85 S.W.3d 542 (2002). Any conflicts in the testimony of witnesses testifying at a suppression hearing are for the circuit court to resolve, as it is in a ...

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