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BAILEY v. COMMONWEALTH




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BAILEY

v.

COMMONWEALTH


COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA

Present: Judges Elder, Clements and Felton

Argued at Chesapeake, Virginia

Record No. 2767-02-1

MARCUS LEMONT BAILEY, S/K/A

MARCUS LAMONT BAILEY

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

 

MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]BY
JUDGE LARRY G. ELDER

NOVEMBER 25, 2003

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF WILLIAMSBURG AND

COUNTY OF JAMES CITY

Samuel Taylor Powell, III, Judge

J. Stephen Roberts, Sr., for appellant.

Donald E. Jeffrey, III, Assistant Attorney General (Jerry W.
Kilgore,

Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Marcus Lemont Bailey (appellant) appeals from his convictions
for possession of a

concealed weapon, possession of marijuana, possession of
cocaine, and possession of a firearm

while in possession of cocaine. On appeal, he contends the trial
court erroneously concluded that

(1) the search of his person did not violate the Fourth
Amendment; (2) he was not under

custodial arrest and, therefore, was not entitled to be informed
of his Fifth Amendment rights

before being questioned; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to
prove he possessed the firearm

taken from him at the scene of the traffic stop while he
simultaneously possessed the cocaine

later taken from him at the police station. We hold the trial
court’s denial of appellant’s motion

to suppress on Fourth and Fifth Amendment grounds was not error
and that the evidence was

sufficient to prove appellant simultaneously possessed both
cocaine and a firearm.

Therefore, we affirm the challenged convictions.

I.

MOTION TO SUPPRESS

At a hearing on a defendant’s motion to suppress, the
Commonwealth has the burden of

proving that a warrantless search or seizure did not violate the
defendant’s Fourth Amendment

rights. Simmons v. Commonwealth, 238 Va. 200, 204, 380 S.E.2d
656, 659 (1989). "In

determining whether the Commonwealth has met its burden, the
trial court, acting as fact finder,

must evaluate the credibility of the witnesses . . . and resolve
the conflicts in their testimony

. . . ." Witt v. Commonwealth, 215 Va. 670, 674, 212 S.E.2d
293, 297 (1975).

On appeal, we consider the evidence adduced at both the
suppression hearing and the

trial, DePriest v. Commonwealth, 4 Va. App. 577, 583, 359 S.E.2d
540, 542-43 (1987), and we

view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party
prevailing below, here the

Commonwealth, granting to the evidence all reasonable inferences
fairly deducible therefrom,

Commonwealth v. Grimstead, 12 Va. App. 1066, 1067, 407 S.E.2d
47, 48 (1991). "[W]e are

bound by the trial court’s findings of historical fact unless
‘plainly wrong’ or without evidence to

support them[,] and we give due weight to the inferences drawn
from those facts by resident

judges and local law enforcement officers." McGee v.
Commonwealth, 25 Va. App. 193, 198,

487 S.E.2d 259, 261 (1997) (en banc). However, we review de
novo
the trial court’s application

of defined legal standards, such as whether the police had
reasonable suspicion or probable cause

for a search or seizure or whether a suspect was "in
custody" for purposes of Miranda v.

Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966),
to the particular facts of the

case. Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 699, 116 S. Ct.
1657, 1663, 134 L. Ed. 2d 911

(1996); see Thompson v. Keohane, 516 U.S. 99, 102, 116 S. Ct.
457, 460, 133 L. Ed. 2d 383

(1995) (discussing standard for "in custody"
determination).

A.

REASONABLENESS OF SEARCH

An officer may effect a traffic stop when, inter alia, he
has probable cause to believe a

traffic violation has occurred. Dickerson v. Commonwealth, 35
Va. App. 172, 177, 543 S.E.2d

623, 626 (2001). During the course of the stop, he make take
certain steps to protect himself,

such as asking the driver to exit the vehicle for safety
reasons. Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434

U.S. 106, 111 n.6, 98 S. Ct. 330, 333 n.6, 54 L. Ed. 2d 331
(1977). He may not search the driver

pursuant to issuance of a traffic citation and may frisk the
driver for weapons only if he develops

reasonable suspicion to believe the driver is armed and
dangerous. Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S.

113, 117-18, 119 S. Ct. 484, 488, 142 L. Ed. 2d 492 (1998). Once
the purpose of the stop has

been completed, the stop may not be extended absent consent or
additional information

amounting to reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Dickerson,
35 Va. App. at 178, 543

S.E.2d at 626.

Here, Officer McFarland effected a valid traffic stop for
speeding, as appellant concedes.

Further, the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the
Commonwealth, supports the

trial court’s finding that, during the course of that valid
stop, Officer McFarland twice smelled

the odor of unburned marijuana emanating from appellant’s
vehicle, in which appellant was the

sole occupant. Officer McFarland testified that he was familiar
with that smell based on his

training and experience. We hold Officer McFarland’s testimony
was not inherently incredible.

The trial court expressly stated that it "[took] into
consideration the officer’s experience and his

training. In this particular case he has unique qualifications
and he’s been to drug investigation

school and he has smelled marijuana in the past, unburned
marijuana."

This evidence provided Officer McFarland with (1) reasonable
suspicion to detain

appellant further to investigate whether he had marijuana, a
controlled substance, in his

possession and (2) probable cause to search appellant’s
vehicle for marijuana, see United States

v. Parker, 72 F.3d 1444, 1450 (10th Cir. 1995); United States v.
Haley, 669 F.2d 201, 203 (4th

Cir. 1982).[2]In
the course of that valid ongoing detention, Officer McFarland was entitled to

question appellant further about whether he possessed
contraband. In response to that

questioning, appellant said he had a gun and pointed to his
right hip. Based on appellant’s

admission, Officer McFarland was justified, as he did, in
seizing the gun and detaining appellant

further to determine whether he had a concealed weapons permit.
Officer McFarland handcuffed

appellant but told him he was not under arrest at that time,
actions that were reasonable to protect

the officers’ safety. Jackson v. Commonwealth, 41 Va. App.
211, 238, 583 S.E.2d 780, 794

(2003) (en banc). After calling dispatch and determining
that appellant, in fact, did not have a

concealed weapons permit, McFarland had probable cause for
arrest. Thus, the evidence, viewed

in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, supports the
trial court’s determination that the

seizure and search of appellant were reasonable under the Fourth
Amendment.

B.

CUSTODIAL ARREST AND ENTITLEMENT TO MIRANDA RIGHTS

Miranda holds that "statements stemming from custodial
interrogation are inadmissible

unless certain procedural safeguards effective to secure the
privilege against self-incrimination

are provided. Custodial interrogation is ‘questioning
initiated by law enforcement officers after a

person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his
freedom of action in any

significant way.’" Wass v. Commonwealth, 5 Va. App. 27,
29-30, 359 S.E.2d 836, 837 (1987)

(quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444, 86 S. Ct. at 1612).
"[T]he question is not whether a

reasonable person would believe he was not free to leave, but
rather whether a person would

believe he was in police custody of the degree associated with
formal arrest." 2 Wayne R.

LaFave, Jerold H. Israel & Nancy J. King, Criminal Procedure
? 6.6(c), at 526 (2d ed. 1999).

In determining whether a suspect is in custody when questioned,
"[t]he totality of

circumstances must be considered." Wass, 5 Va. App. at 32,
359 S.E.2d at 839. Appropriate

factors for consideration include the nature of the surroundings
in which the questioning takes

place, "the number of police officers present, the degree
of physical restraint, and the duration

and character of the interrogation." Id. at 32-33, 359
S.E.2d at 839. "An officer’s knowledge or

beliefs may bear upon the custody issue if they are conveyed, by
word or deed, to the individual

being questioned." Stansbury v. California, 511 U.S. 318,
325, 114 S. Ct. 1526, 1530, 128

L. Ed. 2d 293 (1994).

A routine, roadside traffic stop and the usual questioning

associated with such a brief stop generally will not be
considered

"custodial interrogation" because the detention is
usually of very

short duration and the attendant circumstances "are not
such that

the motorist feels completely at the mercy of police." Such
stops

are usually in public and only one or perhaps two officers are

usually present. Consequently, Miranda warnings are not required

prior to the type [of] questioning usually associated with such

stops.

Cherry v. Commonwealth, 14 Va. App. 135, 138-39, 415 S.E.2d 242,
243-44 (1992) (quoting

Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 437-38, 104 S. Ct. 3138,
3148-49, 82 L. Ed. 2d 317 (1984))

(citation omitted). Although a stop based on reasonable
suspicion to conduct a narcotics

investigation may not be a "routine" traffic stop, it
nevertheless does not become a custodial

interrogation simply because the subject is narcotics. Id.

Here, Officer McFarland’s inquiry as to whether defendant had
anything on him that

McFarland needed to know about did not convert the brief
encounter into a formal arrest or

indicate to defendant that his freedom of movement was being
curtailed to the degree associated

with a formal arrest. Only Officers McFarland and Dillard were
present at the scene. Although

McFarland asked appellant to exit his vehicle and may have told
appellant he planned to search

the vehicle, the encounter had been brief, and neither McFarland
nor Dillard said or did anything

else tending to indicate to a reasonable person in appellant’s
position that "he was in police

custody of the degree associated with formal arrest." 2
LaFave, supra, at ? 6.6(c), at 526. Thus,

we hold the trial court did not err in denying appellant’s
motion to suppress on Fifth Amendment

grounds.

II.

SUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE TO PROVE SIMULTANEOUS

POSSESSION OF COCAINE AND FIREARM

Appellant’s conviction for violating Code ? 18.2-308.4
required proof that appellant

possessed cocaine and "simultaneously with knowledge and
intent possess[ed] any firearm."

Appellant contends the evidence was insufficient to prove he
possessed the firearm taken from

his person at the scene of the stop simultaneously with the
cocaine found in his pocket when he

was searched at the jail over an hour later. We disagree.

On appeal, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the Commonwealth and

accord the evidence all reasonable inferences fairly deducible
therefrom. Higginbotham v.

Commonwealth, 216 Va. 349, 352, 218 S.E.2d 534, 537 (1975). The
credibility of a witness, the

weight accorded the testimony, and the inferences to be drawn
from proven facts are matters

solely for the fact finder’s determination. Long v.
Commonwealth, 8 Va. App. 194, 199, 379

S.E.2d 473, 476 (1989).

Any element of a crime may be proved by circumstantial evidence.
See, e.g., Servis v.

Commonwealth, 6 Va. App. 507, 524, 371 S.E.2d 156, 165 (1988).
Such evidence "is as

competent and is entitled to as much weight as direct
evidence," provided the evidence as a

whole "is sufficiently convincing to exclude every
reasonable hypothesis except that of guilt."

Coleman v. Commonwealth, 226 Va. 31, 53, 307 S.E.2d 864, 876
(1983). "[T]he

Commonwealth need only exclude reasonable hypotheses of
innocence that flow from the

evidence, not those that spring from the imagination of the
defendant." Hamilton v.

Commonwealth, 16 Va. App. 751, 755, 433 S.E.2d 27, 29 (1993).
Whether a hypothesis of

innocence is reasonable is a question of fact, Cantrell v.
Commonwealth, 7 Va. App. 269, 290,

373 S.E.2d 328, 339 (1988), and, therefore, is binding on appeal
unless plainly wrong, Martin v.

Commonwealth, 4 Va. App. 438, 443, 358 S.E.2d 415, 418 (1987).
See Commonwealth v.

Hudson, 265 Va. 505, 512-17, 578 S.E.2d 781, 785-88 (2003).

Here, the only reasonable hypothesis flowing from the evidence
in the record, viewed in

the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, was that appellant
simultaneously possessed the

cocaine and firearm. After Officer McFarland took the firearm
from appellant’s person, he

handcuffed appellant’s hands behind his back. Appellant then
remained handcuffed and in

Officer McFarland’s custody until Corporal Morgan searched
appellant in McFarland’s presence

at the jail a little over an hour later. Officer McFarland did
not see appellant make any attempt to

reach his front pocket during the intervening time and opined
that appellant would have been

unable to reach his front pockets while handcuffed even if he
had tried. McFarland testified

further that Corporal Morgan did not have anything in her hands
prior to reaching into

appellant’s pocket and extracting the bag of cocaine.
McFarland also testified that he was

"disgusted with" himself for not finding the cocaine
during his earlier search of appellant,

thereby acknowledging his own belief that the cocaine must have
been present at the earlier time.

Thus, despite McFarland’s admission that he "[could not] say for a fact" that appellant

simultaneously possessed the cocaine and firearm, the only
reasonable hypothesis flowing from

the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the
Commonwealth, was that appellant had

the cocaine in his pants pocket when Officer McFarland seized
the firearm from beneath

appellant’s jacket.

The trial court expressly or implicitly rejected as unreasonable
appellant’s hypotheses

that the handcuffed appellant intentionally acquired the cocaine
after McFarland seized the

weapon or that Corporal Morgan planted the cocaine on appellant
and concluded the only

reasonable hypothesis was the one consistent with appellant’s
guilt. We hold the court’s

rejection of appellant’s alternative hypotheses of innocence
was not plainly wrong, and we

affirm his conviction for simultaneously possessing a firearm
and cocaine.

III.

For these reasons, we hold the trial court’s denial of
appellant’s motion to suppress on

Fourth and Fifth Amendment grounds was not error and that the
evidence was sufficient to prove

appellant simultaneously possessed both cocaine and a firearm.
Thus, we affirm the challenged

convictions.

Affirmed.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1]Pursuant to
Code ? 17.1-413, this opinion is not designated for publication.

 

[2]We assume
without deciding, contrary to the trial court’s holding, that Officer

McFarland lacked reasonable articulable suspicion to believe
appellant might be armed and

dangerous. The offense Officer McFarland was investigating
involved drug possession, not drug

distribution, cf. Harris v. Commonwealth, 9 Va. App. 355, 358,
388 S.E.2d 280, 282 (1990) ("A

reasonable suspicion of possession and distribution of
narcotics is indicative of dangerousness

authorizing a search for weapons." (emphasis added)), and
Officer McFarland articulated no

other basis for believing appellant might be armed and
dangerous, see Harrell v. Commonwealth,

30 Va. App. 398, 404-06, 517 S.E.2d 256, 258-60 (1999)
(invalidating weapons frisk where

officer was concerned for his safety but articulated no basis
for that concern and had back-up

officer to keep watch on driver and passenger while he entered
car to examine inspection

sticker).

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