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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

May 10, 2017

CHRISTOPHER SHAWN WILLIAMS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST DIVISION [NO. 60CR-14-3894] HONORABLE LEON JOHNSON, JUDGE

          William R. Simpson, Jr., Public Defender, and Sandi Cordi, Deputy Public Defender, by: Margaret Egan, Deputy Public Defender, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kathryn Henry, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, Judge

         Appellant Christopher Shawn Williams appeals his bench trial conviction on charges of possession of methamphetamine with purpose to deliver, a Class B felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B felony. He argues that the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress all physical evidence that was obtained, pursuant to what appellant claimed was an illegal search and seizure of his person, was clearly erroneous. We affirm.

         I. Facts

         Appellant was charged by felony information with a single count of possession of methamphetamine with purpose to deliver, a Class B felony, possession of drug paraphernalia (scales), a Class B felony, a count of Class D felony possession of drug paraphernalia (pipe), and an unclassified misdemeanor of driving on a suspended driver's license. Appellant waived a jury trial and subsequently filed a motion to suppress physical evidence on April 16, 2015, asserting an illegal search and seizure of his person in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, article 2, section 15 of the Arkansas Constitution, and state statutes regarding searches and seizures.

         The April 25, 2016 bench trial began with a hearing on appellant's motion to suppress. Following testimony and arguments of counsel, the trial court denied the motion. The bench trial included testimony from three State witnesses: Tony Ball and Tina McMillan, sheriff's deputies at the time of the stop and arrest of appellant, and Kim Brown, a drug chemist at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory. Deputy Ball testified that he saw appellant driving a vehicle, and he conducted a traffic stop based on his belief that appellant's driver's license had been suspended. After the stop, Deputy Ball confirmed the suspended license and advised appellant that an inventory search was going to be conducted. Deputy Ball testified that appellant consented to a search of the vehicle. The search resulted in the confiscation of suspected contraband, and appellant was taken into custody.

         Deputy McMillan responded to the location of appellant's stopped vehicle. She described searching the vehicle and finding a suspicious object wrapped in black electrical tape. Following a K-9 alert, Deputy McMillan took a closer look at the taped object and noticed a plastic baggie with a white crystalline substance inside. She also described looking in a backpack and finding a pipe and scales.

         The final witness for the State was Ms. Brown, who was qualified as an expert in drug analysis. Ms. Brown identified State's exhibit 2 as an item she had tested and found to be methamphetamine in excess of four grams.

         At the conclusion of the State's case-in-chief, appellant moved for a directed verdict on each count, individually. The trial court denied the motions. Appellant chose not to testify, and counsel renewed the previous motions, including the motion to suppress the evidence. The trial court denied those motions and announced that appellant was guilty on Counts I and II-possession of methamphetamine with purpose to deliver, a Class B felony, possession of drug paraphernalia (scales), a Class B felony, respectively-but that Counts III and IV were dismissed.

         A sentencing hearing was conducted on May 26, 2016, at which time appellant was sentenced to four years of probation, fines, fees and court costs, drug treatment, and a driver's-license suspension. That sentencing order was entered on June 2, 2016. Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal on June 20, 2016.

         II. Standard of Review

         When reviewing a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence, we conduct a de novo review based on the totality of the circumstances, reviewing findings of historical facts for clear error and determining whether those facts give rise to reasonable suspicion or probable cause, giving due weight to the inferences drawn by the trial court. Bathrick v. State, 2016 Ark.App. 444, 504 S.W.3d 639. We defer to the trial court's superior position in determining the credibility of the witnesses and resolving any conflicts in the testimony. Id. A finding is clearly erroneous when the appellate court, after reviewing the entire evidence, is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made. Id. ...


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