FROM THE NEVADA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 50CR-15-18]
HONORABLE RANDY WRIGHT, JUDGE
Luppen, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rebecca Bailey Kane, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge
his vehicle was searched following a traffic stop, appellant
Marcus Christopher was charged with possession of cocaine
with the purpose to deliver, possession of marijuana with the
purpose to deliver, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The
Nevada County Circuit Court denied appellant's motion to
suppress the evidence seized during the search, and appellant
entered conditional guilty pleas to the
charges. On appeal, he argues that the trial court
erred in denying his motion to suppress because the
warrantless search of his vehicle was illegal. We disagree
and affirm the convictions.
Preston Glenn of the Nevada County Sheriff's Department
and Lieutenant Wesley Turner of the Prescott Police
Department provided testimony at the suppression hearing.
Turner testified that on the afternoon of March 6, 2015,
Glenn called to advise him Cite as 2017 Ark.App. 237 that he
had received reports that someone driving a black Kia Spectra
in the area was acting suspicious. The vehicle was reported
to be circling blocks, which Turner said was something drug
dealers sometimes do. Glenn initiated a traffic stop on the
vehicle after observing that one of its brake lights was not
working. After driving a couple hundred yards, appellant
stopped in a parking lot. When Glenn approached the vehicle
and asked appellant for his driver's license, he smelled
a very strong odor of marijuana emitting from the vehicle.
Glenn said that the odor gave him probable cause to search
the vehicle, so he asked appellant to step out. Turner
arrived on the scene to assist Glenn, and other officers were
called for backup because a crowd of people, including
relatives of appellant's, had gathered in the parking
lot. Glenn testified that he spoke with appellant at the back
of the car and handcuffed him to detain him.
testified that when he arrived at the stop, he looked through
the back-passenger window of appellant's vehicle and saw
a Crown Royal bag that appeared to contain a bottle of
whiskey. Turner asked appellant if the seal had been broken
on the bottle; appellant said it had not and then stated that
there was no alcohol in his car. In order to see what was in
the bottle, Turner opened the car door and detected a strong
odor of marijuana. He discovered that the Crown Royal bag
contained marijuana packaged in plastic wrap. When he opened
the door, Turner had not been informed by Glenn about the
smell of marijuana or instructed to conduct a search. Turner
showed Glenn what he had found, appellant was arrested, and
Glenn then searched the vehicle and seized more drugs and
drug Cite as 2017 Ark.App. 237 paraphernalia. Turner
testified that appellant was handcuffed after the marijuana
had been found. The trial court denied the motion to suppress
upon finding the existence of probable cause and exigent
circumstances to support the warrantless search.
reviewing a trial 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 trial court and proper deference to
the trial court's findings. Johnson v. State,
2014 Ark.App. 567, 444 S.W.3d 880. Arkansas appellate courts
defer to the superior position of the trial court to evaluate
the credibility of witnesses at a suppression hearing.
Id. We will reverse the denial of a motion to
suppress only if the ruling is clearly against the
preponderance of the evidence. Id.
argues that the officers conducted a pretextual stop in order
to search his vehicle for drugs. He suggests that Deputy
Glenn attempted to conceal this fact because he did not
testify about the prior reports of a suspicious vehicle. A
pretextual traffic stop, however, is not unconstitutional.
State v. Mancia-Sandoval, 2010 Ark. 134, 361 S.W.3d
835. As long as the police officer had the proper probable
cause to make the traffic stop, the officer's ulterior
motives will not render the stop unconstitutional. See
id. Here, Glenn had probable cause to believe that
appellant had violated the traffic law requiring functioning
brake lights. See Sims v. State, 356 Ark. 507, 157
S.W.3d 530 (2004); Ark. Code Ann. § 27-36-216 (Repl.
2014). Therefore, there is nothing inherently
unconstitutional or invalid Cite as 2017 Ark.App. 237 about
the initial traffic stop.
next argues that Turner had no probable cause to search the
vehicle based on his observation of the Crown Royal bag and
that Glenn's subsequent search was tainted by
Turner's illegal search. Although Turner had not yet
detected the odor of marijuana when he initiated the search,
probable cause is assessed based on the collective knowledge
of the police, not solely on the knowledge of the officer
making the stop or arrest. Jones v. State, 2011
Ark.App. 683. At the time Turner initiated the search, Glenn
had already decided to search the vehicle based on the odor
of marijuana he identified when he asked appellant for his
driver's license. We have held that the odor of marijuana
coming from a vehicle is sufficient to arouse suspicion and
provide probable cause for the search of that vehicle.
Lopez v. State, 2009 Ark.App. 750. Accordingly, we
agree with the trial court that probable cause existed for
also argues that there were no exigent circumstances to
warrant the search because there was no threat of destruction
or removal of evidence. We disagree. Arkansas Rule of
Criminal Procedure 14.1(a)(i) (2016) allows for a warrantless
search of a readily movable vehicle that an officer has
reasonable cause to believe contains evidence subject to
seizure where the vehicle is in an area open to the public.
Because a vehicle is readily movable by any person, not just
the suspect, exigent circumstances allow the vehicle to be
searched at the scene. McDaniel v. State, 337 Ark.
431, 990 S.W.2d 515 (1999). Appellant's vehicle was in a
parking lot open to the public and was readily movable,
especially with his relatives among the crowd of people that
had gathered; no further exigency was required to search it.
See Vega v. State, 56 Ark.App. 145, 939 S.W.2d 322
appellant also points out the discrepancy in the testimony
concerning the point at which he was handcuffed, he cites no
authority to support his contention that handcuffing him
prior to the search "would have been illegal" and
provides no argument that this would have rendered the search
unconstitutional. We hold that the denial of appellant's
motion to suppress was not clearly against the preponderance
of the evidence, and we affirm appellant's convictions.
Whiteaker and ...