Padilla v. State, No. 212, Sept. Term, 2007.

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtHollander
Citation949 A.2d 68,180 Md. App. 210
PartiesLouis Charles PADILLA v. STATE of Maryland.
Docket NumberNo. 212, Sept. Term, 2007.
Decision Date30 May 2008
949 A.2d 68
180 Md. App. 210
Louis Charles PADILLA
STATE of Maryland.
No. 212, Sept. Term, 2007.
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
May 30, 2008.

[949 A.2d 70]

William J. Morrow (Kenneth W. Ravenell, Schulman, Treem, Kaminkow, Gilden & Ravenell, PA, on brief), Baltimore, for appellant.

Carrie J. Williams (Douglas F. Gansler, Atty. Gen., on brief), for appellee,



At a bench trial in the Circuit Court for Cecil County, Louis Charles Padilla, appellant, proceeded by way of an agreed statement of facts and was convicted of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, in violation of Md.Code (2002, 2007 Supp.), § 5-602(2) of the Criminal Law Article ("C.L."). He was sentenced to seven years of incarceration, with all but three years suspended.

At issue here is appellant's pre-trial motion to suppress the narcotics seized from a hidden compartment of his vehicle during a traffic stop. The vehicle search occurred after a police dog alerted to the presence of the contraband. Appellant poses one question for our consideration: "Did the trial court err in denying appellant's motion to suppress evidence?"

Appellant concedes that suppression was not required under the Fourth Amendment. However, he urges this Court to reverse based on Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. In his view, Article 26 requires reasonable, articulable suspicion to conduct a dog scan, which he alleges was not present here. For the reasons that follow, we shall affirm.


On August 3, 2005, appellant was pulled over for speeding while on southbound I-95. During the course of the traffic stop, a police drug dog alerted to the presence of illegal drugs. A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed a hidden compartment

949 A.2d 71

containing over 1,500 grams of heroin. As a result, appellant was arrested and charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute under C.L. § 5-602(2).1

On December 19, 2006, the court held a hearing on appellant's motion to suppress the drugs seized from his vehicle. No testimony was taken. Rather, the parties submitted an agreed statement of facts, presented orally by the prosecutor, and argued their respective legal positions. A summary of the facts presented at the suppression hearing follows.2

On August 3, 2005, Trooper First Class Kennard of the Maryland State Police3 was operating a stationary laser in the area of I-95 southbound at the 99-mile marker in Cecil County, when he observed a green Honda Accord traveling southbound at a speed he believed exceeded the posted speed limit of 65 mph. After pointing his radar gun at the vehicle, Kennard obtained a speed reading of 73 mph. At approximately 8:29 p.m., he initiated a traffic stop near the 97.3 mile marker of southbound I-95.

Trooper Kennard approached the vehicle and made contact with appellant, who was the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle. Appellant gave the officer a New York "temporary license" bearing the name "Melvin Allen," but lacking a photograph. Upon questioning about the ownership of the vehicle, appellant advised the trooper that he did not own the car. He explained that the vehicle was owned by and registered to his sister, who lived in North Carolina. Appellant initially told the trooper that his sister's name was "Sandra Lane," but later told the Trooper that his sister's name was "Sandra Allen." In addition, appellant told the trooper that he was driving the vehicle to High Point, North Carolina to return the car to his sister. However, appellant could not provide his sister's specific address in North Carolina, and told the trooper that he was going to contact her for directions upon his arrival in the area. While conversing with appellant, Trooper Kennard "smelled an overwhelming smell of air freshener coming from the car."4

Upon receipt of Mr. Padilla's "temporary license," Trooper Kennard went back to his patrol vehicle and asked dispatch to perform a check on the vehicle's registration and on the driver's license. On the basis of appellant's representations and the circumstances, which the prosecutor characterized as "criminal indicators," the trooper also radioed for a K-9 unit to conduct a scan of the vehicle.

Minutes later, at approximately 8:41 p.m., Trooper First Class Joseph Catalano, a certified Maryland K-9 handler, arrived with "Bruno," his drug detection dog, and

949 A.2d 72

performed a scan of the exterior of the vehicle. Approximately twelve minutes after the initiation of the traffic stop, the drug dog alerted to the presence of a controlled dangerous substance in the vehicle. By the time the dog alerted, however, Trooper Kennard "still hadn't received anything back regarding the defendant's ... identity.... [N]othing was coming back on that license...." Therefore, the traffic stop had not yet concluded.

As a result of the alert, Trooper Kennard conducted a search of the interior of the vehicle. He noticed an irregularity in the side wall of the driver's side rear passenger area and discovered a hidden compartment behind the side wall secured by a hydraulic piston. Inside the compartment were two large plastic-wrapped packages containing a total of nearly 1,600 grams of heroin, equal to over 3 pounds. Appellant was then arrested.

The court then heard argument on the motion. In sum, appellant claimed that, under Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, police must have reasonable, articulable suspicion of illegal drugs before conducting a dog scan. Further, he argued that reasonable, articulable suspicion was not present in this case.

Further, defense counsel alleged that the Maryland State Police "currently have in place a policy requiring that there be reasonable, articulable suspicion before the police can conduct a dog scan." Appellant's attorney indicated that the policy was instituted pursuant to a settlement agreement in a suit between the ACLU and the Maryland State Police.5 According to defense counsel, the policy requires State troopers to fill out an "MSP-130" form that sets out their reasons for any search or dog scan. Without objection, defense counsel introduced an MSP-130 form filled out by Trooper Kennard pursuant to his stop of appellant. It described the trooper's grounds for conducting the K-9 scan of appellant's vehicle, as follows: "Driver did not have a valid form of identification. The driver did not know who the registered owner of the vehicle was or where he was taking it. The drivers [sic] hands were shaking and his breathing was shallow and rapid when he handed me his license."

The State responded that, under Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 125 S.Ct. 834, 160 L.Ed.2d 842 (2005), the Fourth Amendment does not require police to have reasonable, articulable suspicion to conduct a dog scan, and opposed appellant's argument for extension of Maryland constitutional law. Moreover, the State contended that, even if reasonable and articulable suspicion were required, it was present under the circumstances attendant here.

Before ruling on the motion, the court remarked: "I think it is a trial judge's job to make decisions and rulings that can be structured in such a fashion that an important

949 A.2d 73

issue or point of law is framed for an appellate court should they desire to address it." After reviewing relevant case law, the court made the following findings:

First, the traffic stop of the defendant was lawful; second the officers had reasonable, articulable suspicion to request a K-9 scan and they complied with their own internal procedures or policies regarding that, specifically Defendant's Exhibit No. 1 [the MSP-130 form]; third, I find in accordance with the foregoing cases that a K-9 sniff is not a search under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution or under the Maryland Declaration of Rights as that is presently interpreted by Maryland courts; fourth, I find that reasonable suspicion existed for both the K-9 sniff and the subsequent search and seizure of [heroin] from the car that the defendant was operating.

The matter then proceeded to the trial phase, at which appellant waived his right to a jury trial. The prosecutor presented an additional agreed statement of facts, which provided more details regarding the traffic stop, search, and arrest. According to the agreed statement, "[o]nce Mr. Padilla was placed under arrest and taken back to the barrack, he was later identified, having run his prints, as being Louis Padilla from Brooklyn, New York."6


When we review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we look only to the record of the suppression hearing. Owens v. State, 399 Md. 388, 403, 924 A.2d 1072 (2007). We do not consider information from the trial record when ruling on a pre-trial motion to suppress evidence. Paulino v. State, 399 Md. 341, 348, 924 A.2d 308 (2007).7 Moreover, we "do not engage in de novo fact-finding." Haley v. State, 398 Md. 106, 131, 919 A.2d 1200 (2007). Instead, we "extend great deference to the findings of the motions court as to first-level findings of fact and as to the credibility of witnesses, unless those findings are clearly erroneous." Brown v. State, 397 Md. 89, 98, 916 A.2d 245 (2007). In addition, we "`view the evidence and inferences that may be reasonably drawn therefrom in a light most

949 A.2d 74

favorable to the prevailing party on the motion....'" Owens, 399 Md. at 403, 924 A.2d 1072 (quoting State v. Rucker, 374 Md. 199, 207, 821 A.2d 439 (2003)). We then make "an independent, de novo, constitutional appraisal by applying the law to the facts presented in a particular case." Williams v. State, 372 Md. 386, 401, 813 A.2d 231 (2002).

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be...

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