Reynolds v. State, 343

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtDAVIS.
Citation746 A.2d 422,130 Md. App. 304
PartiesTroy William REYNOLDS v. STATE of Maryland.
Docket NumberNo. 343,343
Decision Date09 December 1999

746 A.2d 422
130 Md.
App. 304

Troy William REYNOLDS
STATE of Maryland

No. 343, Sept. Term, 1999.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

December 9, 1999.

746 A.2d 424
Samuel Hamilton, Silver Spring, for appellant

Shannon E. Avery, Asst. Atty. Gen. (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen., Baltimore, and Frank Weathersbee, State's Atty. for Anne Arundel County, Annapolis, on the brief), for appellee.

Argued before DAVIS, THIEME and KENNEY, JJ.

746 A.2d 423

746 A.2d 425
DAVIS, Judge

On January 28, 1999, appellant Troy William Reynolds was convicted at a bench trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County for possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (Count One) and possession of a controlled dangerous substance (Count Two). On March 24, 1998, appellant was arrested by Anne Arundel County Police, pursuant to two outstanding warrants in appellant's name in Prince George's County. Subsequent to the arrest, appellant was searched, whereupon nineteen baggies of what was suspected to be cocaine were discovered in his pants pocket. Appellant was subsequently charged on June 6, 1998 by criminal information with the above offenses. On August 13, 1998, appellant filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized based on an illegal stop. A hearing was conducted on December 21, 1998 and the motion was denied. On January 28, 1999, appellant requested a reconsideration of the motion to suppress, which was denied, and a bench trial proceeded on a not guilty statement of facts. Appellant was convicted and the court merged Count Two into Count One. Subsequently, he was sentenced on March 23, 1999 to five years in prison with credit for four days served, with the remainder of the sentence suspended, and four years supervised probation.

On this appeal, we are presented with one question, which we rephrase as follows:

Did the trial court err when it denied appellant's motion to suppress evidence based on his Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure?

We answer the question in the affirmative and, accordingly, reverse the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress.


This appeal focuses on the events leading to appellant's arrest on March 24, 1998 on Meade Circle Road in the Meade Village neighborhood in Anne Arundel County. Appellant asserts that his initial detention by police that day was an unlawful seizure and violated his protections against unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. At approximately 3:30 p.m., two uniformed officers—Detective Thomas Coleman and Officer McNamara—entered Meade Circle Road in Meade Village in Severn, Maryland, in their marked patrol vehicle. The officers observed a group of approximately ten individuals gathered on one of the street corners. One of the individuals yelled "five-0"1 and the group immediately began to disperse. Appellant continued to walk at a normal pace and the police pulled their vehicle along the sidewalk on which appellant was walking, exited the car, and approached him. Maurice Wilson, a friend of appellant and a witness at the suppression hearing, was initially walking along with appellant but, once the police stopped their vehicle, he continued in a different direction while still remaining in the area. The officers asked appellant his name and his date of birth to which he truthfully replied. Although what occurred next is disputed by the officers and witnesses who testified for appellant regarding how long appellant was detained and at what point he was handcuffed, we consider, upon our review of the denial of the motion to suppress, only that version of the testimony in the light most favorable to the State and accepted by the motions judge.

That version, as presented through the testimony of Detective Coleman, was that, after appellant stated his name and date of birth in response to the questions asked, the officers proceeded to radio in the information to check if any outstanding warrants

746 A.2d 426
existed in appellant's name. Detective Coleman testified at the suppression hearing that it was only after they received information that there were warrants outstanding against appellant from Prince George's County that he was handcuffed.

Subsequent to his arrest on the warrants, the police conducted a search of appellant and recovered two baggies, both of which contained other baggies, four in one bag, and fifteen in the other, of what was later to be identified as crack cocaine. Appellant was charged and eventually convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance and possession of a controlled dangerous substance. He was sentenced to five years in prison, all of which was suspended except for four days served that were credited, and four years of supervised probation. Appellant then filed this timely appeal.



Reduced to its simplest terms, the issues in this case require us to answer two questions: 1) Was the initial encounter between Troy William Reynolds and the two law enforcement officers, Detective Thomas Coleman and Officer McNamara, a consensual accosting or a stop unsupported by reasonable articulable suspicion? 2) During the five minute detention of appellant, do the circumstances, when subjected to an objective standard, indicate that a reasonable person would have felt free to leave and end the encounter? See Ferris v. State, 355 Md. 356, 367, 735 A.2d 491 (1999). As court decisions—particularly decisions emanating from the Supreme Court—have considered Fourth Amendment implications attendant to police-citizen confrontations in public places, the thread running throughout these decisions is that lawfulness of the encounter turns on the reasonableness of the actions of law enforcement officials, which must be evaluated according to the alternative which is minimally invasive of personal liberties, yet permits officers to carry out their sworn duties when the facts, which have come to their attention through legitimate means, demonstrate the commission of a criminal act or acts. The Fourth Amendment is not implicated, however, when a citizen, in the absence of a show of coercive authority, consents to answer questions put to him or her by police officers.

Because of the manner in which appellant and the State have framed the issues on this appeal, we believe our discussion, infra, will more graphically demonstrate what constitutes an accosting and its constitutionally permissible scope when contrasted with more intrusive police actions. Recent decisions pronouncing the constitutionally sanctioned bases for an on-the-street stop have severely limited the right of law enforcement officials to engage in arbitrary stops except when the intrusion is minimal; random stops focusing on a particular suspect as the criminal agent of some as yet undiscovered crime continue to be disfavored.


In reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress under Maryland Rule 4-252, we look only to the record of the suppression hearing and do not consider the record of the trial (or proceeding adjudicating the merits, i.e., agreed statement of facts). Graham v. State, 119 Md.App. 444, 705 A.2d 82 (1998) (quoting Trusty v. State, 308 Md. 658, 521 A.2d 749 (1987)); see also Gamble v. State, 318 Md. 120, 125, 567 A.2d 95 (1989); Herod v. State, 311 Md. 288, 290, 534 A.2d 362 (1987); Jackson v. State, 52 Md.App. 327, 332 n. 5, 449 A.2d 438, cert. denied, 294 Md. 652 (1982). In considering the evidence presented at the suppression hearing, we extend great deference to the fact-finding of the suppression hearing judge with respect to determining the credibility of the witnesses and to weighing and determining first-level facts. Perkins v. State, 83 Md.App. 341,

746 A.2d 427
346, 574 A.2d 356 (1990). When conflicting evidence is presented, we accept the facts as found by the hearing judge unless it is shown that his or her findings are clearly erroneous. Graham, 119 Md.App. at 449, 705 A.2d 82 (citing Riddick v. State, 319 Md. 180, 183, 571 A.2d 1239 (1990)). As to the ultimate conclusion, however, we must make our own independent constitutional appraisal by reviewing the law and applying it to the facts of the case. Lawson v. State, 120 Md.App. 610, 614, 707 A.2d 947 (1998); Graham, 119 Md.App. at 450, 705 A.2d 82 (citing Riddick, 319 Md. at 183, 571 A.2d 1239; Perkins, 83 Md.App. at 346, 574 A.2d 356). In determining whether a seizure of the person took place, we look to the totality of the circumstances of the initial encounter between appellant and the police. Ferris, 355 Md. at 376, 735 A.2d 491. We review the trial court's factual findings in the light most favorable to the State, and review these findings for clear error, but we review the legal conclusions de novo. Id. at 368, 735 A.2d 491.


Relying on our decision in Lawson v. State, 120 Md.App. 610, 707 A.2d 947 (1998), for the proposition that the initial detention in the case at hand constituted a seizure of the person rather than an accosting, appellant asserts that "the discovery of facts subsequent to the stop cannot overcome the illegality of a stop that commenced without sufficient probable cause to justify the stop and subsequent detention." Id. at 618, 707 A.2d 947 (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968)).

In responding to the State's argument that the encounter between the police and appellant was consensual, Reynolds is constrained to engage in an analysis that distinguishes between a voluntary interaction and what constitutes a seizure of the person. Such an analysis necessarily involves a discussion of controlling authorities that consider Fourth Amendment implications of "Terry stop" cases, including recent decisions in which the Court of Appeals and this Court have articulated the "second stop" principle. Appellant's...

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