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State v. Anderson

Court of Appeals of Georgia

April 21, 2015

THE STATE
v.
ANDERSON

Cert. applied for.

Motion to suppress. Cherokee Superior Court. Before Judge Cannon.

Shannon G. Wallace, District Attorney, Sarah M. Santander, Cliff Head, Assistant District Attorneys, for appellant.

Kesler Law Firm, Jonathan A. Kesler, for appellee.

MILLER, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Branch, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 62

Miller, Judge.

The trial court granted James Wilson Anderson's motion to suppress evidence seized from his vehicle. The State appeals, contending that the trial court erred because Anderson voluntarily consented to a search of his vehicle during a first-tier encounter. For the reasons that follow, we agree and reverse the grant of Anderson's motion to suppress.

[I]n reviewing the trial court's suppression of evidence, we must construe the evidence most favorably to upholding the trial court's findings and judgment. Moreover, because we accept the trial court's findings on disputed facts and witness credibility, a determination of voluntariness must be upheld unless it is clearly erroneous. Nevertheless, when controlling facts are not in dispute, such as those facts discernible from a videotape, our review is de novo. Finally, we apply the legal principles to the facts independently.

(Punctuation and footnotes omitted; emphasis supplied.) State v. Brown, 308 Ga.App. 480, 482-483 (708 S.E.2d 63) (2011); see also Green v. State, 275 Ga. 569, 573 (2), n. 11 (570 S.E.2d 207) (2002) (in reviewing a videotape, we owe no deference to the trial court's findings of fact).

So viewed, the evidence shows that in December 2013, a Cherokee County deputy sheriff stopped Anderson's truck for a taillight [332 Ga.App. 265] violation. Upon approaching Anderson's truck, the police officer asked Anderson for his driver's license and discussed the reason for the stop. The police officer briefly questioned Anderson and allowed Anderson to exit his vehicle to observe the violation. The police officer returned to his patrol car to run Anderson's driver's license through dispatch, and no issues were noted. The police officer then returned to the front of his patrol car, where Anderson had been standing, and they discussed the fact that they had similar trucks. The police officer then gave Anderson a verbal warning to have the taillight fixed and returned Anderson's driver's license to him.

After receiving his driver's license, Anderson walked back to his truck, and as he was about to enter it, the police officer asked for a few more moments of his time. Anderson agreed and walked back toward the officer, who was waiting behind the truck. The police officer asked Anderson if he had anything illegal in his truck, and Anderson answered in the negative. The police officer also asked for and received Anderson's consent to search his vehicle. During a search of the truck, the police officer found a methamphetamine pipe with burnt residue inside of it. The police officer then asked Anderson about the pipe, and Anderson admitted that he had smoked methamphetamine the day before. Anderson also admitted that he had a marijuana pipe inside his truck. The police officer then arrested Anderson, and Anderson was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug related objects, and the taillight violation.

Page 63

Anderson moved to suppress the drug evidence seized from the traffic stop, arguing that after issuing a warning, the police officer initiated a second detention that was not supported by an articulable suspicion of illegal activity. Following a hearing, the trial court granted Anderson's motion, concluding that after Anderson started to enter his vehicle, the police ...


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