Shamds v. State, 2060

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtOpinion by Sharer, J.
Docket NumberNo. 2060,2060
Decision Date05 December 2017


No. 2060


September Term, 2015
December 5, 2017

Circuit Court for Carroll County
Case No.


Graeff, Kehoe, Sharer, J. Frederick (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Opinion by Sharer, J.

*This is an unreported opinion, and it may not be cited in any paper, brief, motion, or other document filed in this Court or any other Maryland Court as either precedent within the rule of stare decisis or as persuasive authority. Md. Rule 1-104.

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Appellant, Tarvaris Shamds, was charged in the Circuit Court for Carroll County with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and related offenses. After his motion to suppress was denied, appellant proceeded on a not guilty plea on an agreed statement of facts, was convicted of possession with intent to distribute, and then sentenced to three years with all but one year suspended, followed by three years supervised probation.

In his timely appeal, Appellant asserts that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to suppress.

For the following reasons, we find no error and shall affirm.


The State's sole suppression witness was Deputy Michael Hugel, of the Carroll County Sheriff's Department, the arresting officer. As a prelude to his testimony, the State established that he had been in law enforcement for four years, that he received 40 hours specialized training, including training concerning illegal drugs, and that he had been involved in approximately 80 drug investigations, 20 to 30 of which involved crack cocaine. Hugel also testified that he had felt crack cocaine during drug investigations at traffic stops previously, testifying that crack cocaine felt "like a hard rock like substance." He further testified that he was familiar with the packaging of crack cocaine, that it was normally packaged in "small amounts, less than a gram," and that "[u]sually it's either wrapped in some type of paper or in small plastic baggies." In the course of his duties, Hugel had patted down individuals with crack cocaine in their pockets approximately three times before, and recognized the contraband "by the feel of it." He also had assisted other officers in similar situations approximately 50 times.

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On the day in question, November 2, 2013, at approximately 1:51 a.m., Hugel was on patrol in the Sykesville/Eldersburg area of Carroll County, near the intersection of Routes 32 and 26 and Johnsville Road, when he noticed a vehicle approaching him in the opposite direction. The high beam head lights on that vehicle were "on or the aim was out of adjustment," and the "red glaring, dazzling effect took away my night vision for a moment." Hugel then made a u-turn, activated his emergency equipment, and stopped the vehicle. The vehicle pulled into the parking lot of a nearby business, Salerno's Restaurant, which was closed at the time.

Hugel approached the driver of the vehicle, who was appellant, and asked him for license and registration. As appellant complied, producing a Virginia driver's license, the deputy made several observations, including that: appellant was "overly friendly;" there was approximately $100 in cash in the glove compartment but "nothing else in the vehicle;" the presence of a single key in the ignition; there was a dealer tag on the vehicle; and, the high beam indicator was not activated on the vehicle dashboard. Hugel testified that the presence of a single key indicated to him that appellant was using the vehicle on a short-term basis, and that this, as well as the dealer tag, suggested the possible presence of narcotics, based on his training, knowledge and experience.

After Hugel explained the reason for the stop, appellant stated that he had recently had the headlights replaced and that they might be improperly adjusted. Hugel took appellant's license and registration back to his vehicle, ran a warrants check, as well as checking the license and registration. After apparently seeing no alerts, Hugel wrote a warning and returned to appellant's vehicle.

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At that point, he asked appellant to step out of the vehicle and explained the warning, including that there was no fine for the equipment violation. He returned appellant's license and registration, gave him the written warning, and then told appellant he was "free to go." Hugel testified that he also asked appellant if he understood he was free to go and appellant replied that "yes, I understand."

As appellant walked back towards the driver's door of his vehicle, Hugel stated, "Mr. Shamds, do you mind if I ask you a question?" Appellant replied, "sure." Hugel testified that "[a]t that time I asked Mr. Shamds for consent to search his person, the vehicle and all contents within which he then replied, 'sure.'" Hugel clarified that he told appellant that "there is [sic] some indicators that I had picked up on that rose [sic] my suspicion," and that appellant's exact response was "sure, no problem."

Hugel began to search appellant by patting down his legs. As he did so, he noticed that appellant would not spread his legs apart, despite being repeatedly instructed to do so. Hugel testified that "each time he would only open about an inch or so" and that appellant's body was "very tense as if he was squeezing his butt cheeks together." Hugel continued:

I continued my sweep up the leg to the buttocks area between his legs. I could tell Mr. Shamds was starting to tense even more which arose my suspicion even more. At that time I felt a bulge coming from between his butt cheeks which I immediately was able to determine to be a type of plastic bag by the feel of it to the clothing and I could feel a hard rock like substance inside of it and through my training, knowledge and experience, I thought it to be crack cocaine.

When asked to explain why he thought he felt plastic baggies containing crack cocaine, Hugel responded:

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One was the feel of it. You know, I felt it before on traffic stops. I'm familiar with the feel of it. The way he was attempting I guess you could say, conceal it on his person. Every time I have had illegal narcotics between the legs, it has always been way up between the butt crack. So just from experience, I knew it was crack cocaine.

Hugel then placed appellant in handcuffs, observing that appellant tensed up further, and "it took quite a few minutes to get the object loose and remove it. He wasn't giving it up." Hugel admitted that the object was not visible, but "as you felt with your hand up, you could feel it protruding." His testimony continued:

After quite a few minutes of attempting to shake it loose, I loosened Mr. Shamds' jeans, pulled his jeans down leaving his boxers on him so it wasn't exposed and I was able to get a better grasp of the item and wiggle it loose.

Appellant was searched near the rear of his vehicle, right behind the trunk and in front of the deputy's police vehicle. Hugel testified that neither appellant's private area nor his buttocks were exposed to the public. No other persons were nearby when appellant was searched in the parking lot, and the restaurant had been closed for approximately one hour before the stop. But, Hugel acknowledged that a friend of appellant's walked up to the area after appellant was already placed in the deputy's police vehicle.

Master Deputy Cromwell, was also on the scene during the search. Another deputy, Deputy Best, arrived after appellant was in custody.1 Although the deputies were armed and in uniform, none of them unholstered their weapons during the encounter.

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Hugel testified that he did not yell at appellant, but confirmed that, although he generally used a calm voice, he did raise his voice when appellant refused to comply with his commands to release the item from between his legs.

Ultimately recovered from appellant's buttocks area was a plastic, clear baggie containing approximately 15 small baggies of suspected crack cocaine. Further searches of appellant's person, both at the scene and at the police station, revealed over $500 in currency and additional contraband, including marijuana.

Finally, on direct examination, Hugel was asked why individuals will conceal items on their person in this manner, and he responded:

From my training, knowledge and experience, there are a lot of deputies that are not very - or police officers in general that are not very comfortable with doing a full search between a person's legs but from, like I said, my knowledge, training and experience, I know that that's a lot of places that people hide drugs just because they know that it's a lesser chance of it being located.

On cross-examination, Hugel agreed that he unbuckled appellant's pants to search him. He also confirmed that he pulled down appellant's pants, stating "[t]hat's correct. That's not normal procedure but due to the circumstances." Appellant was neither nervous nor sweating. He further agreed that Master Deputy Cromwell was present when he asked appellant for consent to search.

Hugel confirmed that, at the time of this stop, he had only been with the Sheriff's Office for two months, and that his prior employment was with the Maryland Transportation Authority. This case was just his second possession with intent to distribute case as a Sheriff's deputy.

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Hugel testified that, when he searched appellant, he was wearing leather gloves, not surgical or sterilized gloves. As for the search itself, he testified on cross-examination:

[COUNSEL]: Okay. Now, when you first noticed my client holding his butt cheeks together, did you stick your hand down and reach in to feel what was there?

[HUGEL]: No.

[COUNSEL]: Okay. You did it from the back?

[HUGEL]: That's correct.

[COUNSEL]: And you could feel the $60 that was in one pocket?

[HUGEL]: Well, the money was recovered after the fact that the -

[COUNSEL]: But it was back there where you were searching with your hand?

[HUGEL]: Well, I had not went to the pocket

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