State v. Green, 3186.

Decision Date12 June 2000
Docket NumberNo. 3186.,3186.
Citation341 S.C. 214,532 S.E.2d 896
CourtSouth Carolina Court of Appeals
PartiesSTATE of South Carolina, Respondent, v. Alonzo Clinton GREEN, Appellant.

Coming B. Gibbs, Jr., of Gibbs & Holmes, of Charleston, for appellant.

Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh and Senior Assistant Attorney General Mark Rapoport, all of Columbia, and Solicitor David Price Schwacke, of North Charleston, for respondent.

HOWARD, Judge:

Alonzo Green was convicted and sentenced for trafficking in crack cocaine, possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of heroin, and possession of a handgun during the commission of a violent crime. Green appeals, arguing the trial court erred in (1) finding the arresting officer made a lawful stop based only on an uncorroborated anonymous tip; (2) finding a frisk for weapons was justified; and (3) finding the arresting officer acquired knowledge of drug possession while conducting a frisk for weapons. We reverse.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

While on duty at the corner of Morrison Drive and Romney Streets, Sgt. James Mackey (the officer) received a cellular telephone call from the Police Dispatcher. The officer was notified that a "black male by the name of Alonzo Green * * * was leaving the area of Bayside Manor." The anonymous caller also reported Green was driving a gray four-door Maxima and had just left a residence in Bayside Manor with a large sum of money and narcotics. While still on the telephone, the officer saw Green, whom he knew by sight, driving a gray Maxima traveling away from Bayside Manor. Based solely on the anonymous tip, the officer pulled Green over.

As the officer approached the vehicle, he noticed Green fumbling under the front seat. The officer testified that this fumbling led him to believe Green may have been in possession of a weapon. After asking Green to step out of the vehicle, the officer frisked him for weapons. Subsequent to this frisk, Green was found to be in possession of narcotics and a large some of money. The handgun was found later under the front seat of the vehicle.

Green's attorney moved to suppress the evidence, alleging the stop and the frisk were both violations of the Fourth Amendment. The trial judge denied the Motion to Suppress. Green was then convicted in a bench trial on May 4, 1999. This appeal follows.

DISCUSSION

Green argues the trial judge erred in finding the officer made a lawful stop and had reasonable suspicion based only on an uncorroborated anonymous tip. We agree.

The trial judge concluded the stop was proper and based his finding of probable cause1 for the stop on Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990). In White, police received an anonymous telephone tip that White would leave a particular apartment at a specific time with cocaine in her possession. The caller also informed police, in detail, what vehicle White would drive and her final destination. The police proceeded to the named location and witnessed a woman with an attache case enter a vehicle that matched the caller's description. They followed the vehicle for several miles and stopped the vehicle just short of the motel the caller described as White's final destination. A consensual search revealed marijuana and, after White was arrested, cocaine in her purse. The Court held that the anonymous tip exhibited a sufficient indication of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop. This finding was based on the fact that the caller's story was sufficiently corroborated by the police and the caller was able to predict future behavior, which demonstrated a familiarity with White's affairs.

In contrast, the Court recently held that reasonable suspicion based solely on a call made from an unknown location by an unknown caller lacked sufficient indicia of reliability to make an investigatory stop. Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 120 S.Ct. 1375, 146 L.Ed.2d 254 (2000) (Kennedy, J., and Rehnquist, C.J., concurring).2 In J.L., the police received an anonymous tip that a young black male, standing at a particular bus stop, wearing a plaid shirt, was carrying a gun. Officers went to the bus stop and observed three black males, one of whom was wearing a plaid shirt. They frisked all three males, based only on the anonymous tip, and found a gun in J.L.'s pocket. The Court found that the tip provided no predictive information and therefore left the police no way to test the knowledge or credibility of the anonymous caller. The Court stated:

An accurate description of a subject's readily observable location and appearance is of course reliable in this limited sense: It will help the police correctly identify the person whom the tipster means to accuse. Such a tip, however, does not show that the tipster has knowledge of concealed criminal activity. [R]easonable suspicion ... requires that a tip be reliable in its assertion of illegality, not just in its tendency to identify a determinate person.

J.L., 529 U.S. at____, 120 S.Ct. at 1379.

In reaching its decision in J.L., the Court noted that "[i]f White was a close case on the reliability of anonymous tips, this one surely falls on the other side of the line." Id. We believe that the facts in this case are similar to those in J.L. and therefore, this case also...

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    ...evidence should be suppressed based on Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266, 120 S.Ct. 1375, 146 L.Ed.2d 254 (2000), and State v. Green, 341 S.C. 214, 532 S.E.2d 896 (Ct.App.2000). Specifically, he maintained this incident arose as the result of an unreliable anonymous tip. Additionally, he allege......
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