Johnny L. Reed v. The State of Texas--Appeal from 13th District Court of Navarro County

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Reed-JL v. State /**/




No. 10-95-242-CR









From the 13th District Court

Navarro County, Texas

Trial Court # 25,355




Johnny L. Reed was sleeping in a car driven by Joezell Charles on Interstate 45 in Navarro County when Charles was stopped for speeding by State Trooper Michael Turner. During the stop, Officer Turner searched the vehicle, found cocaine, and arrested both the driver and Reed for possessing the substance. Reed filed a motion to suppress the evidence, and when the court denied his motion, pled guilty and filed this appeal. He asserts in a single point that the court improperly denied his motion to suppress because of insufficient "affirmatively links" between him and the contraband.

Turner saw a maroon Chrysler travelling north on IH-45 and began to "pace" the vehicle. Because he determined that the vehicle was exceeding the posted limit of 65 miles per hour, he activated his emergency lights. The Chrysler stopped on the improved shoulder, and Turner stopped his vehicle behind it. When Turner requested a driver's license, the driver said that his license had expired and gave Turner a Texas Department of Corrections Identification Card, which identified him as Charles. Turner said that Charles was "nervous."

When Turner searched Charles for weapons, he discovered "a large bulge" in his left front pants pocket. When Charles removed it, Turner saw a brown plastic medicine bottle with a white cap. When asked what it contained, Charles became "very nervous and shaky." He told Turner that it was medicine for a toothache that his passenger had. Turner, seeing that the bottle had no label and appeared to be very old, opened the bottle and smelled a "strong odor of cocaine." When he asked Charles again what the bottle contained, Charles "just looked at the ground and said nothing." He then admitted that it was "rock cocaine."

Turner went to the passenger's door of the Chrysler, opened the door, and asked Reed for some type of identification, which he produced. Reed told Turner that he had borrowed the car from a friend in Wichita Falls and that he and Charles were travelling from Houston to Dallas. Turner told Reed about the cocaine and asked him to stand outside of the car while he searched it. In the back, he found two jackets in the driver's-side seat and a small dark colored bag in the passenger's-side seat. Under that bag, he found a "brown colored plastic sack, tied in a knot." Inside that bag, a brown paper sack contained a small clear plastic baggie with a "light brown colored waxy substance" that Turner believed was more rock cocaine. Another clear plastic baggie contained a "white powder substance" that Turner believed to be powdered cocaine.

Turner arrested both Charles and Reed, transported them to the Navarro County jail, and made an inventory of the vehicle. Laboratory tests showed the waxy substance to weigh 8.2 ounces and the powder to weigh 5 grams. Reed was charged with aggravated possession of a controlled substance.

Prior to trial, Reed filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the substances that Turner had found. He agreed with the State that the court could decide the motion on the basis of the facts that are contained in the trooper's offense report. The court denied the motion to suppress and Reed pled guilty. His sole point on appeal asserts:

The trial court erred in denying the appellant's motion to suppress because there were insufficient affirmative links between the defendant and the contraband seized from the vehicle in which he was a passenger to show that he exercised care, control, and management over the contraband and that he knew the matter possessed was contraband.

The State's first contention that the record is insufficient to allow us to review the court's denial of the motion to suppress is moot because the record was supplemented after the State's brief was filed. The State next asserts that Reed failed to show that the search was conducted without a warrant. However, the stipulated facts contained in Turner's offense report are subject to no other interpretation but that he was so arrested. Finally, the State points out that reliance on an "affirmative links" analysis is misplaced when testing the validity of a search, as that analysis is appropriate for testing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction. Having said that, the State proceeds to defend the search on the grounds that Turner had probable cause to conduct it. We agree with the State.

Under the automobile exception, an officer may conduct a warrantless search of a motor vehicle if the officer has probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. Amos v. State, 819 S.W.2d 156, 161 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991).

The "totality of the circumstances" test is used to determine whether probable cause existed for a warrantless search. Amores v. State, 816 S.W.2d 407, 413 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). The State bears the burden of proving the existence of probable cause to justify a warrantless search. Id. Probable cause exists when the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a belief by a man of reasonable caution that a particular person has committed or is committing an offense. Id.

Reed does not contest Turner's right to stop Charles or to search him. Having found an old, unlabeled prescription-type bottle that he was told contained medicine for the passenger and having found that it contained a substance that Charles admitted was cocaine, Turner had probable cause to believe that the vehicle contained evidence of a crime. Amos, 819 S.W.2d at 161. Thus, he was authorized to search it. Amores, 816 S.W.2d at 413.

Because Turner was authorized to search the vehicle in which Reed was a passenger without a warrant, the court correctly denied the motion to suppress the evidence that Turner found. We overrule the point and affirm the judgment.




Before Justice Cummings, and

Justice Vance


Opinion delivered and filed March 20, 1996

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