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Medlock v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 25, 2016

CARROLL ANTHONY MEDLOCK, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE GRANT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. CR-2014-52-2] HONORABLE EDDY R. EASLEY, JUDGE

          Philip C Wilson, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

         Carroll Medlock appeals his convictions for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia. He argues that the circuit court erred in denying his motions for directed verdict and in denying his motion to suppress evidence found in his vehicle. We affirm.

         On 4 June 2014, the Grant County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant on a residence located on 17 Grant 167076, a county road. Deputy Sam Shepard, who was tasked with securing the perimeter of the residence, was positioned at the edge of the driveway near the road. Shortly after 10:00 p.m., Medlock turned onto the road in route to a different residence and stopped his vehicle. Shepard recognized Medlock and knew that Medlock's driver's license was suspended, so Shepard instructed Medlock to pull over and get out of the vehicle. Medlock was placed into custody on a charge of driving on a suspended license and displaying fictitious tags, and Shepard, knowing the vehicle would be towed, began an inventory search of the vehicle. Shepard found what he believed to be methamphetamine in a cigarette pack in the front seat and later found what appeared to be drug paraphernalia.

         Medlock was charged with possession of a Schedule I controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to deliver; possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to use, ingest, or inhale; and driving on a suspended license. An amended information filed in May 2015 omitted the charge of driving on a suspended license but added a habitual-offender sentencing enhancement and an additional charge of posession of drug paraphernalia with the purpose to manufacture a controlled substance.

         On 23 September 2014, Medlock filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained during the stop and the search of his vehicle. He argued that his detention violated Rule 3.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure because Deputy Shepard could not have reasonably believed that he (Medlock) was doing anything illegal when he (Shepard) approached and detained Medlock. He also asserted that the stop violated Rule 2.2 because Shepard was not investigating any particular crime when he made contact with Medlock. Medlock contended that he was seized, that the seizure was unconstitutional, and that the search of his vehicle was a "pretextual" inventory search.

         The circuit court conducted a suppression hearing in November 2014. Deputy Shepard testified that on June 4, he was securing the perimeter of a residence while a search warrant was being executed and saw a vehicle turn off the highway and onto the road in front of the residence. Shepard explained that while there were patrol cars parked along the road, the road was not blocked, but that the vehicle came to a stop in front of the residence. Shepard recognized the driver as Medlock and knew that Medlock's driver's license was suspended at that time. Shepard asked Medlock to pull the vehicle out of the road and into the driveway, asked him to get out of the vehicle, and asked him why he was driving. Medlock explained that he "was going to see someone" and that he had a work permit. Shepard asked another officer, Deputy Jackie Stone, to place Medlock into custody and put him in the back of Shepard's patrol car. Shepard also confirmed through dispatch that Medlock's license was suspended and that he had fictitious tags on his vehicle.

         Shepard explained that Medlock's vehicle was going to be towed, so Shepard began an inventory search of the vehicle. Shepard found a cigarette pack in the front passenger seat, and because in his experience many people keep money or their identification stuffed inside cigarette packs, he looked inside the cigarette pack and found what appeared to be a small amount of methamphetamine wrapped in cellophane. He also found a torch between the passenger seat and the center console and a black case that held a glass pipe and a small tin containing methamphetamine and a small spoon between the driver's seat and the center console.

         Medlock testified that on the night of June 4, he was going by a friend's house to check on her dogs and to return a tow bar. He stated that when he turned onto her road, the road was completely blocked by law enforcement vehicles. According to Medlock, the first thing he saw was an AR-15 held by Deputy Shepard, and Shepard had his weapon "aimed toward the windshield of the car as he walked around to the shoulder of it." Shepard approached the passenger side of Medlock's car and told him to pull over to the shoulder. Medlock explained that he was handcuffed almost immediately after exiting the vehicle and that Shepard began searching the vehicle. Medlock said that he had just repossessed the car and that the title was sitting on top of the console. He denied knowing that there were any drugs in the car and said that he had not driven the car in over three weeks. He admitted that his driver's license was suspended but stated that he had a work permit and that he considered returning his friend's tow bar a part of his work.

         Deputy Shepard was recalled and testified that he did not point his weapon at Medlock at any time that night.

         During closing arguments, the State argued that Shepard's initial contact with Medlock was valid because Shepard had a reasonable suspicion that Medlock was driving on a suspended driver's license. And once Shepard found methamphetamine in the cigarette pack, he had probable cause to search the rest of the vehicle. Medlock argued that Shepard did not have a reasonable suspicion that Medlock's license was still suspended and that the search of the vehicle incident to his arrest was not reasonable. Medlock asserted that the vehicle search was "clearly not an inventory search, it was a pretextual search for contraband."

         In an order entered on 25 November 2014, the circuit court denied Medlock's motion to suppress. The court found that Deputy Shepard had reasonable cause to arrest Medlock and that the search of Medlock's vehicle was not unreasonable under the circumstances.

         The case proceeded to a jury trial in May 2015. Deputy Shepard reiterated his testimony from the suppression hearing; Deputy Jackie Stone testified and confirmed that he had placed Medlock in custody at the behest of Deputy Shepard. Stone also testified that he found "quite a bit" of money on Medlock's person. Agent Matt Smith, a member of the Narcotics Enforcement Unit, testified that he saw the items taken from Medlock's vehicle and the cash that was on Medlock's person, which included "several 20's, maybe a couple of 100's." He later stated that it was "around $500."[1] Nick Dawson, a chemist with the State Crime Lab, confirmed that the white substance in the cellophane package and in the small tin was methamphetamine and that the glass pipe contained methamphetamine residue. He explained that the small tin contained 7.0245 grams of methamphetamine and the cellophane package in the cigarette pack contained 0.1023 grams of methamphetamine.

         At the close of the State's case, Medlock moved for a directed verdict on the charge of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver. He argued that

the State had failed to produce sufficient evidence . . . that [he] was in either actual possession of methamphetamine or constructive possession of methamphetamine. The State has failed to show that Mr. Medlock knew what the substance was in the car or even knew what [sic] the substance was in the car. As to the purpose to deliver, that requires control and intent and there's been neither in the possession with the purpose to deliver methamphetamine.

         As to both charges of possession of drug paraphernalia, he asserted that there was "no evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that [he] had direct physical control over any of the drug paraphernalia or that he even had constructive possession." Medlock's motion was denied.

          The defense presented the testimony of Crystal Forrest, who verified that Medlock was on his way to her house to check on her dogs on the night in question, and Gerald Harp, a friend of Medlock's, who testified that Medlock had not driven his vehicle in over two weeks prior to the night in question and that the car had been driven by several other people. The defense rested, and Medlock's directed-verdict motions were renewed and denied. A jury found Medlock guilty on all charges, and he was sentenced to an aggregate term of eighty years' imprisonment. Medlock has now appealed.

         I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         For his first point on appeal, Medlock argues that the circuit court erred in denying his motions for directed verdict on the charges of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia. This court treats a motion for directed verdict as a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. See Tubbs v. State, 370 Ark. 47, 257 S.W.3d 47 (2007). In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this court determines whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Id. Substantial evidence is evidence forceful enough to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id. This court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, and only evidence supporting the verdict will be considered. Id. The credibility of witnesses is an issue for the jury ...


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