State v. Rucker, 28

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtBATTAGLIA.
Citation374 Md. 199,821 A.2d 439
PartiesSTATE of Maryland, v. Terrence Michael RUCKER.
Docket NumberNo. 28,28
Decision Date14 April 2003

821 A.2d 439
374 Md. 199

STATE of Maryland,
Terrence Michael RUCKER

No. 28, Sept. Term, 2002.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

April 14, 2003.

821 A.2d 441
Gary E. Bair, Solicitor General (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Atty. Gen. of Maryland, on brief), Baltimore, for petitioner

Christopher Allen Griffiths (Douglas J. Wood of Roberts & Wood, on brief), Riverdale, for respondent.


821 A.2d 440

Based on a tip provided by a confidential source that respondent Terrence Michael Rucker (hereinafter "Rucker") was involved in narcotics trafficking, police stopped and questioned him in a shopping center parking lot. As Rucker was stepping into his vehicle, a uniformed officer parked his patrol car behind it, approached Rucker, and asked for his license and registration. Rucker complied, and within moments, two more officers appeared. One of those officers asked Rucker whether "he had anything he was not supposed to have." Rucker stated that he did, and upon further inquiry, admitted to having cocaine. After the police found cocaine on Rucker, he was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute and other offenses. Prior to trial, Rucker moved to suppress his statements and the evidence derived therefrom, arguing that police should have read him Miranda rights before making their inquiries. Although the suppression court and the Court of Special Appeals agreed, we do not. We hold that because Rucker was not in "custody" for purposes of Miranda when he was stopped and questioned in the shopping center parking lot, his admissions should not be suppressed for his not having received the prescribed warnings. Consequently, we shall reverse the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background

Two witnesses testified at the suppression hearing in the instant case: Detective Melvin Powell and Corporal Anthony Grimes, both from the Prince George's County Police Department. According to Detective Powell, on December 31, 2000, a confidential source informed him that the source knew of several persons, including Rucker, who were distributing crack cocaine in the Capitol Heights and Forestville areas of Prince George's County. The source described Rucker as "dark complected, about six foot tall, a hundred and eighty-five pounds, [with] a short hair cut." The source also told Detective Powell that Rucker "owned a burgundy Tahoe" and provided the detective with a "a partial tag of the Tahoe." In addition, the

821 A.2d 442
source told Detective Powell that on January 2, 2001, Rucker would be at a shopping center in Forestville at 5:20 in the evening, that he would be driving the burgundy Tahoe, and that he would be carrying "a quantity of crack cocaine." Consequently, Detective Powell, the source, and a fellow detective by the name of Piazza drove to the shopping center

Shortly after Detectives Powell and Piazza, and the source arrived at the shopping center, Detective Powell spotted a burgundy Tahoe parked "in front of the Athletic USA store, exactly where the confidential source said it would be." About three minutes later, Detective Powell saw an individual approaching the vehicle, who was identified by the source as Rucker. Detective Powell then contacted Corporal Grimes, who was in the vicinity in his patrol car, and asked the Corporal to stop Rucker.

Corporal Grimes parked his patrol car behind the burgundy Tahoe. There was no vehicle occupying the space in front of the Tahoe at the time. As Rucker was getting into the driver's side of the Tahoe, Corporal Grimes called to him in an attempt to get his attention, walked up to him, and requested Rucker's license and registration. Rucker asked, "what's going on," the Corporal just repeated his original request, and Rucker subsequently complied. Corporal Grimes was uniformed and armed, but his weapon was not drawn, and he "made no physical contact with" Rucker.

After Rucker gave his license and registration to Corporal Grimes, Detectives Powell and Piazza arrived. Detective Powell "walked right up" to within two feet of Rucker "and started asking him questions." Detective Piazza, who was "maybe a step behind" Detective Powell and Corporal Grimes, although still in the immediate area, had stepped away from Rucker. Detective Powell asked Rucker "if he had anything that he was not supposed to have." Rucker responded, "[Y]es, I do, it's in my pocket." Detective Powell asked what it was, and Rucker responded, "cocaine." Detective Powell testified that he then placed Rucker in the "prone" position against the Tahoe and eventually recovered "two large rocks of cocaine" from Rucker's pocket. Rucker then was placed formally under arrest. "[T]he entire incident ... from the time we picked up the source," according to Detective Powell, lasted no more than one hour.

After hearing the officers' testimony and argument from counsel, the Circuit Court granted Rucker's motion to suppress his statements and the tangible evidence found during the search of his person. In an oral opinion, the judge observed that "everybody concedes, both from the State and defense side, that there was no probable cause to arrest Mr. Rucker unless one takes into account his statements" and made the following detailed findings of fact:

Detective Grimes was not involved in the case directly. He was summonsed to the scene to go ahead and make a stop.... I use the word stop because clearly that's what happened; he confronted Mr. Rucker as Mr. Rucker was getting into his vehicle, asked him to basically step outside, regardless of how it's stated, provide license and registration. And as Detective Powell testified, that was apparently being done when Detective Powell approached the defendant. Detective Rucker we know-or Detective Powell has testified, as did Officer Grimes, that Officer Grimes was in uniform at the time and clearly one can assume, although it's not testified to, that he was armed at the time, albeit, we know nobody had drawn a weapon.
821 A.2d 443
While Detective—Officer Grimes had the defendant in his presence, Detective Powell approached the defendant, and at this point in time says something to the effect do you have something on your person that you're not suppose to, at which point in time the defendant said yes. And we know from this point, forward the defendant's person was seized after he confided that he had cocaine on his person.

Based upon those findings, the judge determined that the "detention of Mr. Rucker for all intents and purposes" was "an arrest" and concluded that "there was no basis for Detective Powell to go up to the defendant's person and start making inquiry without first mirandizing him."

The State filed an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Maryland Code, § 12-302 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article (1973, 1998 Repl.Vol.),1 and the Court of Special Appeals affirmed in an unreported opinion. Although the intermediate appellate court determined that the police had initiated a valid Terry stop because they "had a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop appellee" based on the information provided by the confidential source, it also concluded that "what occurred after the stop changed the character of the event." According to the Court of Special Appeals, "[T]he events in the shopping mall parking lot exceeded an investigatory stop under Terry, and became the functional equivalent [to] a de facto arrest," requiring Miranda warnings.

We granted the State's Petition for Writ of Certiorari, 369 Md. 301, 799 A.2d 1262 (2002), to consider the following question:

Where the police very briefly detained Rucker on a public street without any display of force, should the Court of Special Appeals' decision, which found "the functional equivalent of a de facto arrest" for purposes of Miranda and accordingly affirmed the grant of Rucker's suppression motion, be summarily reversed in light of this Court's opinion in In re David S., 367 Md. 523, 789 A.2d 607 (2002)?

For the reasons set forth herein, we hold that Rucker was not in custody for purposes of Miranda when he was stopped and questioned in the shopping center parking lot and so was not entitled to the procedural warnings prescribed by that case. Consequently, we shall reverse the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and remand for further proceedings.

II. Standard of Review

Our review of an order granting a motion to suppress evidence is ordinarily "limited to the evidence presented at the

821 A.2d 444
suppression hearing." Carter v. State, 367 Md. 447, 457, 788 A.2d 646, 651 (2002)(citing Ferris v. State, 355 Md. 356, 368, 735 A.2d 491, 497 (1999)). In conducting our analysis, we view the evidence and inferences that may be reasonably drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the prevailing party on the motion, which in this case, was Rucker. Cartnail v. State, 359 Md. 272, 282, 753 A.2d 519, 525 (2000). We pay deference to the trial court's factual findings, upholding them unless "they are clearly erroneous." Carter, 367 Md. at 457, 788 A.2d at 651-52 (citing Wengert v. State, 364 Md. 76, 84, 771 A.2d 389, 394 (2001)). "[We] must make an independent constitutional evaluation," however, "by reviewing the relevant law and applying it to the unique facts and circumstances of the case." Carter, 367 Md. at 457, 788 A.2d at 651 (citing Wilkes v. State, 364 Md. 554, 569, 774 A.2d 420, 429 (2001); Stokes v. State, 362 Md. 407, 414, 765 A.2d 612, 615 (2001); In re Tariq A-R-Y, 347 Md. 484, 489, 701 A.2d 691, 693 (1997)).

In determining whether there was custody for purposes of Miranda, we accept the trial court's findings of fact unless clearly erroneous. McAvoy v. State, 314 Md. 509, 514-15, 551 A.2d 875, 877 (1989). "We must, however, make an independent constitutional appraisal of the record to determine the...

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