Longshore v. State, 139 September Term, 2004.

Citation399 Md. 486,924 A.2d 1129
Decision Date08 June 2007
Docket NumberNo. 139 September Term, 2004.,139 September Term, 2004.
PartiesReginald Anthony LONGSHORE v. STATE of Maryland.
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Gary E. Bair (Bennett & Bair, LLP), on brief, Greenbelt, MD, for Petitioner/Cross-Respondent.

Shannon E. Avery, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen. of Maryland), on brief, Baltimore, MD, for Respondent/Cross-Petitioner.

BELL, C.J., RAKER, WILNER,* CATHELL, HARRELL, BATTAGLIA and GREENE, JJ.

BELL, Chief Judge.

In Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court held that a police officer may stop and detain a person briefly for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion, supported by articulable facts, that criminal activity "may be afoot." 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1884, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, 911 (1968); see also Quince v. State, 319 Md. 430, 433, 572 A.2d 1086, 1087-1088 (1990), Anderson v. State, 282 Md. 701, 706, 387 A.2d 281, 284 (1978) ("[T]he real thrust of Terry is directed at instances in which there is reasonable suspicion that someone is about to commit or has just committed a crime"). In this case, we again consider under what circumstances a brief detention or investigative stop becomes a de facto arrest, for the justification of which, rather than mere reasonable articulable suspicion, probable cause must be shown. See United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7, 109 S.Ct. 1581, 1585, 104 L.Ed.2d 1, 10 (1989) (explaining that reasonable suspicion is a less demanding standard than probable cause); see also Quince, 319 Md. 430, 433, 572 A.2d 1086, 1088 (holding that the level of suspicion required for a stop is less demanding than that for probable cause), Watkins v. State, 288 Md. 597, 606, 420 A.2d 270, 275 (1980) (holding that the reasonable suspicion justifying an investigative stop involves a significantly lower degree of objective evidentiary justification than does a probable cause for arrest).

I.

In the case sub judice, the Charles County Sheriff's Department received a tip from a confidential informant. Claiming that he had both witnessed and videotaped a drug transaction in front of the Saint Charles Towne Mall, the informant produced a videotape showing two men, John Carlson, and the petitioner, Reginald Longshore ("Longshore"), get into a Ford Expedition, which was parked in the mall parking lot and remain there for a short time, while a third person stood by the driver's door. No drugs, paraphernalia, or money could be seen on the videotape. The police detective, Smith, nonetheless, set up surveillance at the mall and with regard to Carlson's vehicle, a Toyota.

Longshore drove away from and, a short time later returned to, the mall. Upon his return, he was followed into the mall by a second detective, Clark, who then observed him meeting with the two people with whom he earlier had been seen, and recorded, in the videotape. As was the case in the videotape, although the three people were together, no drugs actually were observed on this occasion.

When Carlson drove away from the mall, his car was stopped by the police. He consented to being searched. According to the officers, uncovered in the search was a "quantity of marijuana and cocaine."1

At about the same time, a certified drug sniffing dog, Tonya, was brought to the mall to scan Longshore's Ford Expedition, which was again parked on the mall parking lot. Longshore was, at the time, still inside the mall. Tonya scanned Longshore's Expedition and two other cars in the parking lot, with negative results; Tonya did not alert to the presence of any drugs in any of the cars.

Subsequently, Longshore left the mall, driving his Expedition. He was stopped by a third detective, Detective Edge. Detective Edge informed Longshore that he believed that there were drugs in his vehicle. When Longshore declined to consent to a search of the vehicle, Detective Edge, although aware of the prior negative scan, called for Tonya to scan the Expedition again. While waiting for Tonya to arrive, Longshore was placed in handcuffs.

Tonya arrived within two minutes and the scan was conducted. During this second scan, the driver's side window was down, and, as with the first one, the engine was turned off. Upon scanning the exterior of the vehicle, this time, Tonya alerted, indicating the presence of drugs in the area of the rear "wheel well underneath the vehicle." A subsequent search uncovered no drugs in the rear area of the vehicle or underneath it, however. Tonya then was allowed into the vehicle, at which time she alerted to the center console area of the ceiling. A search of that area uncovered a pill bottle containing crack cocaine.2

Longshore was indicted by a Charles County grand jury on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of cocaine. He moved, prior to trial, to suppress the pill bottle and the cash as the fruits of an illegal search of his truck and of his person. The Circuit Court for Charles County denied the motion. Regarding the stop of Longshore's vehicle, the court ruled that the informant's videotape and the drugs found in Carlson's car provided sufficient reasonable suspicion to warrant the stop, which it found continued for no more than 15 minutes before the discovery of the drugs in the ceiling console. The court did find that Longshore had been handcuffed at the scene before Tonya arrived to perform the second scan.

The suppression court also addressed Tonya's reliability. It noted that Tonya's training officer and custodian "testified at great length as to Tonya's training and certifications and they weren't really challenged by anyone at the hearing." The court concluded that "Tonya is a reliable indicator as to the presence of controlled dangerous substances."

Regarding the search of Longshore's vehicle, the court ruled that probable cause existed once the dog alerted to the presence of drugs. It also indicated that the videotape alone gave the police probable cause to search.

At trial, the officers involved gave testimony that was generally consistent with the evidence adduced at the suppression hearing. Longshore was subsequently found guilty of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute and was sentenced to fifteen years incarceration, the first ten of which were to be served without parole. An appeal to the Court of Special Appeals was noted by Long shore. That Court, in an unreported decision, affirmed the trial court judgment.

The Court of Special Appeals addressed the question, "Did the suppression court err in denying the appellant's motion to suppress the evidence seized from his vehicle and his person?" Longshore's argument was similar to the one he makes sub judice, namely, that, when he was handcuffed, he was effectively arrested, and that the police did not, at that time, have probable cause to effectuate a warrantless arrest. The State argued, in response, that the initial stop was simply a detention and that it was supported by reasonable articulable suspicion. Even if the detention constituted an arrest, it maintained, the police possessed probable cause to justify it. The Court of Special Appeals held that the stop was an arrest, not a detention, but concluded, ultimately, that the stop was supported by probable cause.

Longshore filed, in this Court, a petition for writ of certiorari, and the State filed a conditional cross-petition.3 Both petitions were granted by this Court. Longshore v. State, 385 Md. 161, 867 A.2d 1062 (2005).

A.

When an appellate court reviews a trial court's grant or denial of a motion to suppress evidence under the Fourth Amendment, it will consider only the facts and information contained in the record of the suppression hearing. State v. Nieves, 383 Md. 573, 581, 861 A.2d 62, 67 (2004); Laney v. State, 379 Md. 522, 533, 842 A.2d 773, 779 (2004); Dashiell v. State, 374 Md. 85, 93, 821 A.2d 372, 376 (2003) (quoting State v. Collins, 367 Md. 700, 706-07, 790 A.2d 660, 663-64 (2002)); Wilkes v. State, 364 Md. 554, 569, 774 A.2d 420, 429 (2001).

An appellate court further will view the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence in the light most favorable to the party prevailing on the motion, in this case, the State. Nieves, 383 Md. at 581, 861 A.2d at 67; Laney, 379 Md. at 533, 842 A.2d at 779; Dashiell, 374 Md. at 93, 821 A.2d at 376-77 (quoting Collins, 367 Md. at 707, 790 A.2d at 664); Wilkes, 364 Md. at 569, 774 A.2d at 429; Riddick v. State, 319 Md. 180, 183, 571 A.2d 1239, 1240 (1990). Moreover, when there is a conflict in the evidence, an appellate court will give great deference to a hearing judge's determination and weighing of first-level findings of fact. It will not disturb either the determinations or the weight given to them, unless they are shown to be clearly erroneous. Nieves, 383 Md. at 581-582, 861 A.2d at 67; Laney, 379 Md. at 533-34, 842 A.2d at 779-80; Dashiell, 374 Md. at 93-94, 821 A.2d at 378; State v. Rucker, 374 Md. 199, 207, 821 A.2d 439, 444 (2003); Riddick, 319 Md. at 183, 571 A.2d at 1240; Perkins v. State, 83 Md.App. 341, 346, 574 A.2d 356, 358 (1990). See Rule 8-131.4

An appellate court, however, under an independent de novo review standard, must consider the application of the law to those facts in determining whether the evidence at issue was obtained in violation of the law, and, accordingly, should be suppressed. Nieves, 383 Md. at 581-582, 861 A.2d at 67; Laney, 379 Md. at 533-534, 842 A.2d at 779-780; Dashiell, 374 Md. at 93-94, 821 A.2d at 378, Rucker, 374 Md. at 207, 821 A.2d at 444; Stokes v. State, 362 Md. 407, 413-14, 765 A.2d 612, 615 (2001); Ferris v. State, 355 Md. 356, 368, 735 A.2d 491, 497 (1999). Indeed, appellate courts make their "own independent constitutional appraisal, by reviewing the law and applying it to the peculiar facts of the particular case." Jones v. State, 343 Md. 448, 457, 682 A.2d 248, 253 (1996).

With this in mind, we turn to the case sub judice. The Court of Special...

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