Sanders v. State

Decision Date19 December 1977
Docket NumberNo. CR,No. 1,CR,1
Citation262 Ark. 595,559 S.W.2d 704
PartiesLonnie James SANDERS, Appellant, v. STATE of Arkansas, Appellee. 77-171
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

McArthur & Johnson, Little Rock, for appellant.

Bill Clinton, Atty. Gen. by Robert J. Govar, Asst. Atty. Gen., Little Rock, for appellee.

HOWARD, Justice.

The fundamental inquiry to be made by the Court in this case is whether or not the warrantless search of appellant's suitcase

by Little Rock Police officers is reasonable under the circumstances involved.

FACTS

Appellant, Lonnie James Sanders, was charged by information by the Prosecuting Attorney of the Sixth Judicial District with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) with intent to deliver in violation of Act 590 of 1971, as amended.

The charge was the culmination of an intensive surveillance of appellant by the Little Rock Police Department, hereafter referred to as the police, just prior to and during his scheduled arrival at the Little Rock Municipal Airport on April 23, 1976.

The police had been advised by a confidential informant some time prior to April 23, 1976, that appellant had sent an empty green suitcase to Dallas, Texas, on a flight and that in a day or two, appellant would go to Dallas to pick up the suitcase and that the suitcase would be containing marijuana.

On the morning of April 23, 1976, the informant advised the police that appellant would be arriving at the Municipal Airport of Little Rock, Arkansas, at 4:35 p. m. on April 23, 1976, and would deplane at Gate 1 and that appellant would have the green suitcase containing the contraband. 1 The police set up a surveillance at the Municipal Airport awaiting the arrival of appellant. As appellant exited Gate 1, appellant was observed carrying two bags and immediately exited the terminal and placed the two bags in the trunk of a waiting taxicab. Appellant returned to the luggage area inside the terminal and took a green suitcase from the luggage rack and passed it to one David Rambo. Appellant immediately left the terminal and got into the compartment of the cab. Rambo waited inside the terminal near the luggage area a few minutes and he subsequently exited the terminal and placed the green suitcase in the trunk of the cab and took a seat in the compartment of the vehicle. As the taxi departed the airport, the police followed in an unmarked vehicle. As the cab proceeded down East Roosevelt Road, a separate unit of the police, upon request of the officers following the taxi, stopped the taxicab and the officers following the cab requested the cab driver to open the trunk of the vehicle. Another officer directed appellant and Rambo to step out of the vehicle and stand to the side of the taxicab; police officers, without the consent of the appellant or Rambo, opened the green suitcase and found 9.3 pounds of marijuana. Appellant and Rambo were then placed under arrest and appellant was placed in one police unit and Rambo in another and were taken to the Little Rock Police Department.

On January 31, 1977, a hearing was conducted on appellant's Motion to Suppress the evidence which was denied by the trial court.

On February 3, 1977, appellant was found guilty by a jury as charged and was given ten years in the Department of Correction and a fine of $15,000.00.

APPELLANT'S CONTENTIONS

Appellant alleges the following as the grounds for reversal of his conviction:

1. The trial court erred in denying appellant's Motion to Suppress the evidence gained as a result of an illegal search.

2. The trial court erred in allowing the co-defendant to present evidence of a statement allegedly made by appellant and further erred in an allowing the co-defendant to present rebuttal evidence directed toward appellant.

3. The trial court erred in admitting into evidence the subject of this charge when it was not properly identified.

THE SEARCH

Appellant's contention that the warrantless search of his green suitcase, under the existing circumstances, was unreasonable and consequently in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution has merit. We conclude that the trial court erred in denying appellant's Motion to Suppress the evidence confiscated from the suitcase and, therefore, appellant's conviction is reversed.

It is well recognized that warrantless searches are per se unreasonable unless they fall within some established exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. One of these exceptions is probable cause coupled with exigent circumstances. But probable cause alone is insufficient for a warrantless search to square the mandate of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches. United States v. Chadwick, --- U.S. ----, 97 S.Ct. 2476, 53 L.Ed.2d 538; Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 91 S.Ct. 2022, 29 L.Ed.2d 564; Horton v. State, 262 Ark. 211, 555 S.W.2d 226; Perez v. State, 260 Ark. 438, 541 S.W.2d 915.

The information supplied to the police by the confidential informant is adequate to support the State's claim that the police had probable cause to believe that appellant's green suitcase contained a controlled substance when the police confiscated the suitcase and opened it. For the confidential informant, who had supplied reliable information in the past, had advised the police of appellant's mode and manner of transporting marijuana into the state; the police were given the type and color of the suitcase that was being used by the appellant; the approximate date that the empty suitcase was sent to Dallas was supplied to the police; the date and time of appellant's arrival at the Little Rock Municipal Airport was within the immediate knowledge of the police; the name of the commercial airline, as well as the flight number that appellant would be traveling on was revealed to the police by the informant; and the police were also told the gate number that appellant would exist when he deplaned.

Moreover, appellant, at the time, was a resident of Little Rock and was no stranger to the police. The search of the green suitcase can not be justified under the "automobile exception" as claimed by the State. It must also be remembered that appellant's mode of transportation from the Little Rock Municipal Airport was by a local taxicab; the green suitcase was locked in the trunk of the taxicab 2; the police took possession of the suitcase while appellant was in the compartment of the taxicab and appellant was later taken into immediate custody and placed in a police car; the confiscation of appellant's suitcase took place shortly after 4:35 p. m. in a metropolitan area. Indeed, there is nothing in this set of circumstances that would lend credence to an assertion of...

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27 cases
  • United States v. Ross
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1982
    ...green suitcase contained a controlled substance when the police confiscated the suitcase and opened it." Sanders v. State, 262 Ark. 595, 599, 559 S.W.2d 704, 706 (1977). The court also noted: "The evidence in this case supports the conclusion that the relationship between the suitcase and t......
  • U.S. v. Ochs
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • March 13, 1979
    ...of open flight bag removed from locked trunk of impounded vehicle held unreasonable, citing Chadwick ). See also Sanders v. State, 262 Ark. 595, 559 S.W.2d 704 (1977), Cert. granted, --- U.S. ----, 99 S.Ct. 247, 58 L.Ed.2d 236 (1978) (pre-Chadwick warrantless search, on the scene, of suitca......
  • U.S. v. Ross
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • October 13, 1981
    ...443 U.S. 911, 99 S.Ct. 3102, 61 L.Ed.2d 876 (1979); United States v. Vallieres, 443 F.Supp. 186 (D.Conn.1977); Sanders v. State, 262 Ark. 595, 559 S.W.2d 704 (1977), aff'd sub nom. Arkansas v. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753, 99 S.Ct. 2586, 61 L.Ed.2d 235 (1979); Shingleton v. State, 39 Md.App. 527, ......
  • California v. Acevedo
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • May 30, 1991
    ...of circumstances that would lend credence to an assertion of impracticability in obtaining a search warrant." Sanders v. State, 262 Ark. 595, 600, 559 S.W.2d 704, 706 (1977). Over the dissent of Justice BLACKMUN and then Justice REHNQUIST, both of whom had also dissented in Chadwick, this C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Supreme Court Reverses Itself on Automobile Searches
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Association KBA Bar Journal No. 61-02, February 1992
    • Invalid date
    ...at 13. [FN18]. Id. [FN19]. Id. at 15-16. [FN20]. Id. at 17, n. 1 (Brennan, J., concurring). [FN21]. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753 (1979). [FN22]. 262 Ark. 595, 559 S.W.2d 704 (1977). [FN23]. Sanders, 442 U.S. at 765. [FN24]. Id. at 766. [FN25]. Id. at 767 (Burger, C.J., concurring). [FN26]. Id. [FN......

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