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Lewis v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

June 11, 2015

LEWIS
v.
THE STATE

Page 424

Motion to suppress. Cherokee State Court. Before Judge Morris.

Judgment affirmed.

The Cohen Law Firm, Andy M. Cohen, for appellant.

Jessica K. Moss, Solicitor-General, Kristen A. Roch, Assistant Solicitor-General, for appellee.

DOYLE, Presiding Judge. Phipps, C. J., and Boggs, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 425

Doyle, Presiding Judge.

Following a bench trial, Richard Lewis was convicted of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana[1] and possession of a drug-related object.[2] He now appeals from the denial of his motion for new trial, contending that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop. Specifically, Lewis argues that the arresting officer impermissibly prolonged the traffic stop before conducting a free-air sniff search with a trained police narcotics dog and obtaining reasonable suspicion to conduct a nonconsensual search of his vehicle. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

[There are] three fundamental principles which must be followed when conducting an appellate review of a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress. First, when a motion to suppress is heard by the trial judge, that judge sits as the trier of facts. The trial judge hears the evidence, and his findings based upon conflicting evidence are analogous to [332 Ga.App. 467] the verdict of a jury and should not be disturbed by a reviewing court if there is any evidence to support them. Second, the trial court's decision with regard to questions of fact and credibility must be accepted unless clearly erroneous. Third, the reviewing court must construe the evidence most favorably to the upholding of the trial court's findings and judgment. These principles apply equally whether the trial court ruled in favor of the State or the defendant.[3]

To the extent that " the evidence at a suppression hearing is uncontroverted and the credibility of witnesses is not in question, we conduct a de novo review of the trial court's application of the law to the undisputed facts." [4]

The evidence in this case includes a video recording of the traffic stop as well as testimony from the officers. Viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court's findings, the evidence shows that in July 2012, Officer Jerry Jackson was on patrol with passenger Officer John Cash in a marked police cruiser on an interstate when Jackson observed a recreational vehicle (" RV" ) towing a trailer cross the white line on the right side of the roadway. As Jackson followed the RV, he observed it cross the white line two separate times, " almost taking out a construction barrel at one point." Based on the RV's erratic driving, Jackson initiated a traffic stop.

As Jackson approached the RV, the driver, Lewis, placed his empty hands out the driver's window. Jackson spoke to Lewis through the passenger door, due to the heavy highway traffic, and Lewis explained that he had been checking a voice mail on his cell phone, which caused him to weave out of his lane. Jackson requested Lewis's driver's license, which Lewis provided, and asked Lewis for the RV's registration. Lewis explained that he would have to look for it somewhere inside the RV, and Jackson asked Lewis if he could come inside with him while Lewis looked for the paperwork; Lewis declined. The two officers waited outside, while Lewis located the paperwork. At the officers' request, Lewis then joined the officers outside the RV and provided the officers with the registration, and Jackson explained that he was going to write Lewis a warning for failure to maintain his lane. Jackson requested consent to pat down Lewis before he wrote up [332 Ga.App. 468] the warning, which consent Lewis gave, and the pat-down revealed no weapons or contraband.

After informing Lewis that he would receive a warning, Jackson requested consent to search the RV, which Lewis denied. Jackson ...


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