Ex parte Knox.Annotate this Case
In August 2011, Teddy Knox was driving along Interstate 59 in Fort Payne. Officer Matt Wilson of the Fort Payne Police Department stopped Knox's vehicle for improper lane use. During the stop, Officer Wilson became suspicious that Knox might be transporting drugs, and he requested backup from Officer Tony Blackwell, who was a member of the county drug task force and who had his drug-detection dog with him. Lt. Randy Garrison, another member of the drug task force, was also en route to the scene. Officer Wilson eventually issued a warning citation to Knox and told him that he was free to go, but he continued to question Knox about his travel plans. Lt. Garrison and Officer Blackwell arrived at some point during the questioning of Knox. After Officer Blackwell arrived with his dog, Officer Wilson asked Knox if he would consent to a search of his vehicle. Knox refused to consent, and Officer Blackwell then deployed his dog to perform a free-air sniff. The dog "indicated" for the odor of marijuana, and the police eventually searched the vehicle and discovered marijuana. The police seized in excess of 2.2 pounds of marijuana and arrested Knox for trafficking in marijuana, unlawful possession of marijuana, and first-degree unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. Knox filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the marijuana seized during the traffic stop. After an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court entered a written order granting the motion to suppress. The State appealed; the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the judgment on a ground not raised in the circuit court: that Knox was no longer being detained at the time the search was executed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, surmising that it was likely that the State's failure to raise the absence-of-detention argument before the circuit court may have deprived Knox of an opportunity to present evidence in opposition to that theory. "The primary focus of the suppression hearing was the existence of reasonable suspicion, which was based largely on the police officers' observations. Had the State raised the absence-of-detention argument in the circuit court, it is possible that Knox might have chosen to present evidence as to (1) whether he felt free to leave the scene after he was given his warning citation and (2) whether there was a showing of authority sufficient to constitute a detention. By failing to raise this new issue at trial, the State deprived Knox of an opportunity to present evidence and to make arguments. The State's failure to raise the issue also deprived the circuit court of the opportunity to make factual findings and credibility determinations on this issue."