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Search & Seizure – Residence Search – Footlocker In Bedroom

Police did not violate defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights when they searched a footlocker to which defendant had the key after defendant gave consent for search of his mother’s house, and the Court of Appeals upholds defendant’s conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in violation of Va. Code § 18.2-248.

There was sufficient evidence to support the trial court finding that a confidential informant was reliable, based on police officer testimony that the CI had provided the officer with accurate information on 10 previous occasions, with each tip leading to the discovery of narcotics.

Here, the CI told the officer that defendant was in possession of crack cocaine and would be riding in the back seat of a black Honda, Virginia tags, “MANLVE.” He further stated the vehicle would be in the Brighton section of the City of Portsmouth. These are precisely the circumstances in which the detectives found defendant.

Defendant’s vehicle was parked outside a house and defendant was in the back seat. The officer observed defendant get out and enter the house, and a few minutes later, get back in the vehicle. As the detectives approached the vehicle, they observed a “digital scale laying in plain view next to” defendant. Because digital scales are often used in the distribution of drugs, its presence next to defendant corroborated the informant’s tip. The officer had reasonable grounds to believe the informant’s statement was true and was justified in placing defendant under arrest.

Though defendant was in custody when he gave consent to search of his mother’s house, the record contains nothing to suggest his consent was the product of duress or coercion. His consent was valid and the search of the residence did not implicate the Fourth Amendment.

The evidence proved that defendant entered his mother’s house for a few minutes just prior to being stopped by police. At the time he was detained, defendant had a digital scale with him. After obtaining consent to search the residence, police found cocaine in a back bedroom stored inside a locked footlocker. Defendant had the key to the footlocker in his pocket. In addition, the footlocker contained various items belonging to defendant including his personal paperwork and mail. Also in the footlocker was the box for the digital scale found with defendant. The drugs recovered from defendant’s shoe were package in a similar manner to the drugs found in the footlocker. Taken as a whole, we hold the evidence is sufficient for a rational fact finder to find defendant guilty of possession with intent to distribute beyond a reasonable doubt.

Denial of motion to suppress and subsequent conviction are affirmed.

Banks v. Commonwealth (Humphreys, J.) No. 0443-08-1, March 31, 2009; Portsmouth Cir.Ct. (Morrison) William Roots Jr. for appellant; Josephine F. Whalen, AAG II, for appellee. VLW 009-7-153(UP), 7 pp.

VLW 009-7-153

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