State v. Medders

Decision Date29 February 1980
Docket NumberNo. 58837,58837
Citation153 Ga.App. 680,266 S.E.2d 331
PartiesThe STATE v. MEDDERS.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals

Hinson McAuliffe, Sol., Charles R. Hadaway, Asst. Sol., for appellant.

Wendell J. Helton, Steve W. Reighard, Atlanta, for appellee.

QUILLIAN, Presiding Judge.

The state appeals from the grant of the defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized at the time of his arrest. Held :

Officer Cox of the Atlanta Police Department observed the defendant and another person leave the back of a restaurant, light up a cigarette and then "they started passing it back and forth between" them. The officer detected the odor of burning marijuana. He moved closer and confirmed his opinion that the odor was that of marijuana. At that point the defendant and his companion saw the officer and the defendant "crunched (the cigarette) with his fingers." The officer took the cigarette out of defendant's hand. It was a marijuana cigarette and the defendant was placed under arrest. A subsequent search of the defendant revealed more marijuana in an envelope in his pocket.

The defendant argues that there was insufficient "probable cause to arrest for a crime committed in (the officer's) presence." We do not agree. Although there is some controversy as to whether or not the odor of burning marijuana by itself supplies sufficient probable cause for a search or an arrest (See Brewer v. State, 129 Ga.App. 118, 120, 199 S.E.2d 109; Cunningham v. State, 131 Ga.App. 133, 136, 205 S.E.2d 899 (concurring opinion) (revd. on other grounds 232 Ga. 416, 207 S.E.2d 48); Rogers v. State, 131 Ga.App. 136, 139, 205 S.E.2d 901; Cunningham v. State, 133 Ga.App. 305, 310, 211 S.E.2d 150; Yawn v. State, 134 Ga.App. 77(4), 213 S.E.2d 178), all opinions of this court are in agreement that "it may be considered and may be a part of a totality of circumstances sufficient to validate one." Yawn v. State, 134 Ga.App. 77(4), 213 S.E.2d 178, supra.

In the instant case, a trained law enforcement officer seeing two individuals passing one cigarette back and forth between them (Culpepper v. State, 132 Ga.App. 733(1), 209 S.E.2d 18), recognizing the distinctive odor of burning marijuana (Rogers v. State, 131 Ga.App. 136, 139, 205 S.E.2d 901, supra), and seeing the unusual and obvious concealment movement of crushing the cigarette and placing it in his hand (See Dickson v. State, 124 Ga.App. 406, 184 S.E.2d 37; Rogers v. State, 131 Ga.App. 136, 139, 205 S.E.2d 901, supra; Culpepper v. State, 132 Ga.App. 733(1), 209 S.E.2d 18, supra), provided a totality of circumstances which established probable cause to search. Yawn v. State, 134 Ga.App. 77(4), 213 S.E.2d 178, supra. The subsequent finding of the marijuana cigarette in the hand of the defendant was sufficient cause for his arrest. The following search of his person was permissible as being made in conjunction with the lawful arrest. United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 224, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427.

"(W)here there is a conflict in the evidence on the motion to suppress, the ruling of the trial court will be upheld where there is evidence to authorize a finding in support of his order." (Emphasis supplied.) State v. Swift, 232 Ga. 535(2), 207 S.E.2d 459; Woodruff v. State, 233 Ga. 840(3), 213 S.E.2d 689; Parks v. State, 150 Ga.App. 446, 448(2), 258 S.E.2d 66. The Georgia Supreme Court cites Lego v. Twomey, 404 U.S. 477, 92 S.Ct. 619, 30 L.Ed.2d 618, as the fountainhead for the doctrine of the standard to apply by an appellate court in reviewing a decision of a trial court on suppression of evidence. Lego, supra, was based on "a pretrial suppression hearing at which conflicting evidence was presented as to the voluntariness of a confession . . ." (Emphasis supplied.) However, in the instant case there was no conflict in the evidence presented. There was only a question of law as to whether the evidence established probable cause to arrest or search for a crime committed in the presence of the officer. Clearly, if there had been a conflict in the evidence, the trial court's decisions of fact and credibility at a suppression hearing must be accepted unless clearly erroneous. Lego v. Twomey, 404 U.S. 477, 92 S.Ct. 619, 30 L.Ed.2d 618, supra; Woodruff v. State, 233 Ga. 840(3), 213 S.E.2d 689, supra. In State v. Perry, 234 Ga. 842, 844, 218 S.E.2d 559, 562, the Supreme Court analyzed the evidence presented to the trial court which suppressed the evidence, and held that "the Court of Appeals erred in holding that there was not sufficient probable cause for the warrantless arrest." We find, in view of the clear and unimpeached testimony of the police officer who had "hundreds" of arrests involving marijuana and was "well familiar with the smell of marijuana from (his) previous experience," that probable cause to search and arrest was fully established, and the ruling of the trial court was clearly erroneous. See Woodruff v. State, 233 Ga. 840(3), 213 S.E.2d 689, supra; State v. Perry, 234 Ga. 842, 218 S.E.2d 559, supra; State v. Handspike, 240 Ga. 176, 240 S.E.2d 1; State v. Carter, 240 Ga. 518, 242 S.E.2d 28.

Judgment reversed.

DEEN, C. J., McMURRAY, P. J., and SHULMAN, BANKE, BIRDSONG, CARLEY and SOGNIER, JJ., concur.

SMITH, J., dissents.

SMITH, Judge, dissenting.

I would affirm the trial court's order granting Medders' motion to suppress.

This court has held many times that "any evidence" will support a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress. For reasons set forth in my dissenting opinion in Jones v. State, 146 Ga.App. 88, 245 S.E.2d 449 (1978) I believe the "clearly erroneous" test is the proper standard of review. However, even assuming that the "any evidence" rule provides an appropriate standard of review in the case of a denial of a motion to suppress, it is inconceivable that a different standard applies where the grant of a motion to suppress is before this court. Yet, in my view, this is the import of the majority opinion. Under the facts and circumstances of this case, the trial court was not "clearly erroneous" in granting appellee's motion to suppress. Necessarily, there was "some evidence" in support of the trial court's determination.

It is well established that, on a motion to suppress, the trial judge, as a finder of fact, is authorized to resolve any conflicts in the testimony,...

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    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • October 1, 1982
    ... ... (5th Cir.1979); United States v. Curran, supra; United ... States v. Bowman, 487 F.2d 1229 (10th Cir.1973); ... State v. Medders, 153 Ga.App. 680, 266 S.E.2d 331 ... (1980); Miller v. State, 373 So.2d 1004 (Miss.1979); ... Moulden v. State, 576 S.W.2d 817 ... ...
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    ...agreement that 'it may be considered and may be a part of a totality of circumstances sufficient to validate one.' " State v. Medders, 153 Ga.App. 680, 681, 266 S.E.2d 331. Accord: Dickson v. State, 124 Ga.App. 406, 184 S.E.2d 374; Rogers v. State, 131 Ga.App. 136(3), 205 S.E.2d 901; Culpep......
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