State v. Bunts, 18365

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtGARRISON; FLANIGAN, P.J., and PREWITT
Citation867 S.W.2d 277
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Timothy A. BUNTS, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 18365,18365
Decision Date16 December 1993

Page 277

867 S.W.2d 277
STATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent,
Timothy A. BUNTS, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 18365.
Missouri Court of Appeals,
Southern District,
Division Two.
Dec. 16, 1993.
Motion for Rehearing or Transfer to
Supreme Court Denied Jan. 10, 1994.

Page 278

Dee Wampler, Wampler, Wampler & Catt, Springfield, for defendant-appellant.

Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, Atty. Gen., Jennifer A. Glancy, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for plaintiff-respondent.


The trial court, sitting without a jury, found Defendant guilty of possession of more than thirty-five grams of marijuana, § 195.202, RSMo Cum.Supp.1989, and sentenced him to three years' imprisonment. Defendant's sole point on this appeal is that the trial court erred in overruling his motion to suppress and admitting into evidence the marijuana upon which the conviction was based on the theory that it was obtained as a result of an illegal and unreasonable search and seizure.

In reviewing the trial court's denial of a motion to suppress, we do not substitute our discretion for that of the trial court and determine only whether there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court's ruling. State v. Burkhardt, 795 S.W.2d 399, 404 (Mo. banc 1990). The weight of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses are matters for the trial court's determination. Id.; State v. Villa-Perez, 835 S.W.2d 897, 901 (Mo. banc 1992). We are to consider the facts and reasonable inferences arising therefrom in the light most favorable to the trial court's decision. State v. Blair, 691 S.W.2d 259, 260 (Mo. banc 1985); State v. Garza, 853 S.W.2d 462, 463 (Mo.App.1993). "Only if the trial court's judgment is clearly erroneous will an appellate court reverse." State v.

Page 279

Milliorn, 794 S.W.2d 181, 183 (Mo. banc 1990).

On January 24, 1992, Trooper Mike Shockley, a veteran of seventeen and one-half years with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, was westbound on Interstate 44 in Greene County, checking traffic with radar. Defendant was the operator and sole occupant of an eastbound 1988 Pontiac. According to Trooper Shockley, radar indicated that Defendant abruptly reduced his speed from sixty-four miles per hour 1 to forty-five, causing two following motorists to also reduce their speed and pass Defendant to avoid the possibility of an accident. After crossing to the eastbound lane, the trooper ran a license check on Defendant's vehicle which resulted in a report that the license was not registered to a 1988 Pontiac. Trooper Shockley then stopped Defendant and asked that he step back to the patrol car. While they were in the patrol car discussing the situation, information was relayed by radio that the initial license check information was incorrect and that the license was, in fact, registered to the vehicle being operated by Defendant.

The trooper also testified that, consistent with standard policy, he requested a computer check of Defendant's operator's license. While they were waiting for the results, Trooper Shockley engaged Defendant in conversation. Defendant told him that he was going from El Paso (which the trooper said was known to be a point of origin for drugs moving eastward) to Ohio to set up some telecommunications lines, but was uncertain exactly where he was going when he got there and could not be specific as to who or the type of businesses he was going to contact. The trooper's suspicions were also aroused by the fact that Columbus, Ohio is known to be a drop-off point for drugs, and that Defendant was traveling light (one or two bags in the back seat with very few clothes visible). During the conversation, the trooper noticed that Defendant was very nervous, his hands were shaking, he was moving in his seat constantly, his mouth got dry the longer they talked, and his voice continually cracked.

The license check resulted in a report that Defendant had a pending narcotics charge. While retaining his driver's license, the trooper asked him if he had any type of drugs or weapons in the car. According to the trooper, the Defendant responded that he did not and said, "You can look and see if you want," and that if "you want to look in the trunk ... you're more than welcome; there's nothing in there." The trooper testified he told Defendant that if he looked in the trunk it would be "considered a search." Defendant admitted that the trooper was not cruel to him, drew no weapon and did not verbally threaten him, although he testified he was a very imposing individual. Defendant then opened the trunk with his key. According to the trooper's testimony, this was ten to twelve minutes after the vehicle was stopped.

Upon looking in the trunk, the trooper detected a light or faint odor of what he knew from experience was marijuana, which led him to believe there was marijuana concealed in the vehicle. When he did not find it in the trunk, he asked Defendant for permission to search the passenger compartment, and specifically asked about a bag behind the driver's seat. According to the trooper, Defendant said, "If you want to look, I'll open it up for you," and did so. When the trooper stuck his head in the car to look at the bag, the odor of marijuana was much stronger. After checking the bag, the trooper placed his hand underneath the back seat and felt a paper bag which he thought probably contained marijuana. He raised the bottom of the seat and the odor of...

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    ...75 Ohio App.3d 581, 600 N.E.2d 335, 337 (1991); Limonja v. Commonwealth, 7 Va.App. 416, 375 S.E.2d 12, 15 (1988); see State v. Bunts, 867 S.W.2d 277, 280 (Mo.Ct.App.1993); People v. Camarre, 171 A.D.2d 1002, 569 N.Y.S.2d 223, 224 5 Whether an officer's subjective intent is a relevant factor......
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    • 28 Febrero 1995 the light most favorable to the order challenged on appeal. State v. Blair, 691 S.W.2d 259, 260 (Mo. banc 1985); State v. Bunts, 867 S.W.2d 277, 278 (Mo.App.S.D.1993). The weight and credibility of the witnesses are matters for the trial court's determination. State v. Villa-Perez, 835 S......
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