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State v. Allen

Court of Appeals of Georgia

February 23, 2015

THE STATE
v.
ALLEN

Motion to suppress. Paulding Superior Court. Before Judge Osborne.

Judgment affirmed.

Dick Donovan, District Attorney, Steven J. Messinger, Assistant District Attorney, for appellant.

Andrew S. Fleischman, for appellee.

DILLARD, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Miller, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 166

Dillard, Judge.

Jennifer Leigh Allen was arrested and charged, via accusation, with possession of methamphetamine. Allen filed a motion to suppress, challenging the lawfulness of the investigatory detention, during which she consented to the search of her purse where the methamphetamine was discovered. The trial court granted Allen's motion, and the State now appeals, arguing that the court erred in [330 Ga.App. 753] finding that the arresting law-enforcement officers had no reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify the detention. For the reasons set forth infra, we affirm.

Construing the evidence to uphold the trial court's findings and judgment,[1] the record shows that around 9:00 p.m. on July 25, 2012, a Paulding County sheriff's deputy was patrolling a local shopping center parking lot in his marked vehicle when he noticed a red pickup truck, which he believed looked suspicious. Consequently, as he continued driving through the parking lot, the deputy ran the truck's tag number through the Georgia Crime Information Center (" GCIC" ) database, and, in doing so, learned that the truck's owner, William Couch, was wanted for a parole violation. The deputy then turned his vehicle around, at which point he saw the truck now parked and a male and a female, who appeared to have just exited the vehicle, walking toward a Mexican restaurant in the shopping center. Believing the male to be Couch, the deputy used his patrol vehicle's PA system to request that both individuals stop. The couple, however, ignored

Page 167

this request and continued into the restaurant.

After parking his vehicle and following the couple into the restaurant, the deputy saw the female, Allen, sitting alone in a booth, and one of the restaurant's employees informed the deputy that the male had exited out the back of the building. The deputy then approached Allen and asked her where Couch had gone. Allen replied that he was possibly in the restroom, but she was unsure of his whereabouts. But after checking the bathroom and determining that Couch was not there, the deputy ordered Allen to step outside for further questioning, and she complied. By this time, a second law-enforcement officer arrived on the scene, and during the ensuing questioning, Allen acknowledged that Couch had mentioned that there was a warrant out for his arrest. The second officer then told Allen to call some of Couch's friends to inquire as to his whereabouts and ultimately asked Allen if he could search her purse. Allen consented, and during the search, the officer found a clear wrapper containing methamphetamine.

Allen was later charged, via accusation, with possession of methamphetamine.[2] Shortly thereafter, she filed a motion to suppress the evidence garnered as a result of her detention and subsequent consent to the search of her purse. Specifically, she argued that the officers had no reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify her detention, and, therefore, her consent to the search of her purse was [330 Ga.App. 754] invalid. Accordingly, she concluded that the methamphetamine found by the officers in her purse as a result of that search should be suppressed as " fruit of the poisonous tree." [3]

During the hearing on Allen's motion to suppress, the deputy who first saw Couch's truck and then followed Couch and Allen into the restaurant testified that when he initially approached Allen, he did not suspect that she had committed any crime, but nevertheless wanted to question her regarding Couch. The deputy then added that he believed Allen was untruthful when she said Couch may have gone to the bathroom, and thus, she impeded his investigation. In addition, the second officer who arrived on the scene (and ultimately searched Allen's purse) testified that Allen was not free to leave the encounter and that detaining someone with information was lawful even if that person was not suspected of engaging in criminal ...


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