MCFADDEN, P. J., BRANCH and BETHEL, JJ.
Miles Taylor appeals from the denial of his motion for a new
trial following his conviction on a single count of
trafficking in marijuana, for which he was sentenced to 30
years imprisonment. On appeal, as in his motion for a new
trial, he contends that the trial court erred in pretrial
proceedings by denying his motion to suppress evidence
obtained from a search of his vehicle during a traffic stop.
Because we agree with the trial court that the law
enforcement officer who stopped Taylor articulated a
reasonable suspicion of criminal activity sufficient to allow
him to detain Taylor for further investigation, we affirm the
trial court's denial of Taylor's motion to suppress
and his motion for a new trial.
appeal from a denial of a motion to suppress, "this
Court must construe the evidence most favorably to uphold the
ruling of the trial court." Jones v. State, 253
Ga.App. 870, 870 (560 S.E.2d 749) (2002) (citation omitted).
The "trial court's application of law to facts which
are undisputed is subject to de novo review."
Id. (citation omitted).
the relevant evidence consisted entirely of testimony at a
hearing on Taylor's motion to suppress by the deputy who
performed the search on Taylor's vehicle. The deputy was
a canine handler with the county's uniform patrol
division. He testified that he stopped Taylor while driving
on Interstate 75 for failure to maintain lane and for having
window tint that was too dark. As Taylor was providing the
deputy with his license and registration, the deputy observed
in Taylor's car numerous air fresheners and packages that
were releasing an "overwhelming" odor of air
freshener. The deputy also noticed Taylor's hands shaking
as he provided his license and registration, a reaction the
deputy took as a sign of nervousness on Taylor's part.
exited his vehicle at the deputy's request, and he stood
outside the vehicle as the deputy wrote two traffic warnings
for Taylor. The two had a prolonged discussion outside the
vehicle in which Taylor answered a number of the deputy's
questions, including where he was coming from at the time of
the traffic stop. Taylor told the deputy he had been in
Atlanta visiting his uncle in the hospital but struggled to
identify where he was hospitalized or why he was sick. The
deputy also testified that, in the course of their
discussion, Taylor gave conflicting statements about where he
had stayed the night before, first telling him that he stayed
in an apartment and later saying that he had stayed in a
a break in this conversation, the deputy stepped away for a
moment to call for backup and then returned to speak to
Taylor again. The deputy completed the forms for the two
warnings and then placed a call to the dispatcher with
Taylor's driver's license and tag number. The deputy
then asked Taylor for consent to search his vehicle, telling
Taylor that he was aware of "a lot of criminal activity
going up and down this interstate." Taylor refused the
deputy's request for consent to search. At that time, the
deputy was still holding Taylor's license and
registration along with a written warning for the traffic
offenses, and the dispatcher had not yet confirmed
Taylor's license and registration information.
Taylor refused to allow the deputy to search the vehicle, the
deputy indicated to Taylor that he was going to bring over a
K-9 dog with specialized narcotics training to sniff
Taylor's vehicle. As the deputy was walking to his patrol
car to retrieve the dog, the dispatcher replied to the deputy
confirming Taylor's license and registration information.
After collecting the dog from his patrol car, the deputy
brought the dog to Taylor's car to conduct a sniff of the
vehicle. The dog provided a positive response to the sniff,
and the deputy proceeded to search Taylor's vehicle,
whereupon he found a large suitcase in the trunk containing a
significant quantity of marijuana.
was arrested and charged with trafficking in marijuana.
Before trial, Taylor moved to suppress all evidence seized
from his vehicle by the deputy. The trial court denied the
motion through a series of orders. A bench trial followed at
which evidence from the search of the vehicle was admitted.
Taylor was convicted, and he filed a motion for a new trial.
The trial court denied that motion, and this appeal followed.
argues that the deputy lacked a reasonable articulable
suspicion of criminal activity sufficient to detain Taylor
for a drug sniff of the vehicle after the purpose of the
traffic stop had concluded. Absent such reasonable suspicion,
the extension of an otherwise completed traffic stop in order
to conduct a free-air search of a vehicle using a drug dog
violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against
unreasonable searches and seizures. Rodriguez v. United
States, 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614 (191 L.Ed.2d 492) (2015).
An officer who initiates a lawful traffic stop, however, can
shift into a criminal investigation so long as the officer
can articulate reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is
occurring. See Rodriguez v. State, 295 Ga. 362, 369
(761 S.E.2d 19) (2014).
To satisfy this "reasonable suspicion" standard,
the officer's investigation must be justified by specific
articulable facts sufficient to give rise to a reasonable
suspicion of criminal conduct. Articulable suspicion requires
a particularized and objective basis for suspecting that a
citizen is involved in criminal activity. Although this
suspicion need not meet the higher standard of probable
cause, it must be more than a mere caprice or a hunch.
State v. Whitt, 277 Ga.App. 49, 50 (625 S.E.2d 418)
(2005) (citation and emphasis omitted).
To determine whether a reasonable articulable suspicion
exists, courts must look to the totality of the
circumstances. Based upon that whole picture the detaining
officers must have a particularized and objective basis for
suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal
State v. Thompson, 256 Ga.App. 188, 189-90 (569
S.E.2d 254) (2002) (citations and punctuation omitted).
Ultimately, "[t]he State bears the burden of proving
that the search of the car was lawful, and to carry this
burden, the State must show that it was lawful to detain [the
defendant] until the time the drug dog indicated the presence
of drugs." Dominguez v. ...