Argued: May 9, 2016
Court for Anne Arundel County Case No. K-13-2427
Barbera, C.J. Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Battaglia,
Lynne A. (Retired, Specially Assigned), Wilner, Alan M.
(Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.
case, Petitioner, Donzel Sellman ("Sellman"),
challenges the denial of a motion to suppress evidence
obtained after a Terry frisk. He argues that
the law enforcement officers did not have reasonable
suspicion to justify the frisk. We agree that, under the
totality of the circumstances, the facts of this case fall
short of the reasonable suspicion standard, under Terry
v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1884, 20 L.Ed.2d
889, 911 (1968), and therefore, we reverse the judgment of
the Court of Special Appeals.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
relevant facts are taken from testimony presented at a
suppression hearing, and we view them in a light most
favorable to the State, the prevailing party at that hearing.
On November 12, 2013, at approximately 2 a.m., Corporal
William Daughters, a twenty-four-year veteran of the Anne
Arundel County Police Department, and Officer Dan Kramer, a
trainee, were on patrol. The officers were driving through a
large apartment complex in Glen Burnie that contained over
fifty buildings and had approximately one thousand residents.
Corporal Daughters indicated that the complex was considered
a high crime area, because, in the year that he had been
patrolling that area, there had been a shooting, the recovery
of handguns, multiple thefts from cars, and drug arrests.
two officers entered the complex, they observed a vehicle
stopping at a stop sign; the driver waited for the officers
to cross the intersection before proceeding. As the officers
drove through the complex, they observed an individual, later
identified as Sellman, walk from a dark area on the side of
one of the apartment buildings where there was no entry way
towards an area lit by a street light. Corporal Daughters
testified that "it appeared we startled him." The
officer explained that Sellman "came to an abrupt stop,
and then quickly, he started to turn to his right, but then
stopped and then watched our car as it went by." Once
the officers drove past him, Sellman continued on his way.
Corporal Daughters observed Sellman through his rearview
mirror, and saw him walk at a normal pace "toward[s] the
roadway and [he] walked toward[s] the parking area. There are
cars parked along the shoulder on that roadway, and he
appeared to be walking towards those cars." He noticed
that the vehicle he had previously seen at the stop sign
"stopped in the roadway and then the person on foot[,
Sellman, ] got into the left rear door of the vehicle."
Daughters later testified: "I just thought it appeared
odd at that point, people out on foot and people - - instead
of everyone getting into a car in one location, picking
somebody up around the corner . . . ." The officers
turned the patrol car around, and followed the vehicle. Upon
noticing that the vehicle had a broken rear taillight and a
broken tag light dangling by its wiring harness below the
bumper, Corporal Daughters activated the emergency lights,
and the driver immediately pulled over.
officers exited the patrol car, and approached the stopped
vehicle from different sides. Corporal Daughters approached
the driver's side and observed four occupants inside,
including Sellman who was in the left-rear passenger
seat. Corporal Daughters explained to the
driver, Samantha Gillespie, why he had pulled her over, and
requested her driver's license and vehicle registration.
Gillespie explained that she was unsure where the
registration was, because she was borrowing the car from a
friend, however, she did provide her driver's license.
When asked why she was in the neighborhood, Gillespie
explained that she was there to pick up Andrea Queen, a
resident who lived in a nearby apartment. Officer Kramer
testified: "The driver stated that they were taking her
pregnant friend to go out and get some food[.]" Queen
was in the right-rear passenger seat opposite the driver.
Corporal Daughters asked Queen if she had any identification.
She responded no, but indicated that she lived in the
complex. Corporal Daughters later testified that he had
encountered Queen on a previous occasion, and had reason to
believe she did not live at this particular
complex. He also testified that Sellman's
behavior was unusual, because:
On my first approach to the vehicle up to the point where I
had actually physically asked him questions, where he had to
respond to me, Mr. Sellman was sitting completely rigid in
his seat, he had his hands on his knees and was looking
straight ahead and never turned his head once.
officers returned to the patrol car to conduct a warrant
check on Gillespie, which came up negative. They also used
the police database to access records from the Motor Vehicle
Administration ("MVA") in order to check the status
of the driver and the vehicle she was driving; the vehicle
was not reported as being stolen. The officers exited the
patrol car, and returned to the stopped vehicle. Gillespie
was given a written warning and then Corporal Daughters asked
her to exit the vehicle. He took her to the rear of the
vehicle, identified the broken lights, and told her that they
needed to be repaired. At this time, Corporal Daughters asked
Gillespie whether she had anything illegal in the car, and
she responded no. He asked for permission to search the
vehicle. Gillespie asked why, and Corporal Daughters
explained "we had some problems in the area with some
thefts and some drugs, and that kind of thing." Both
officers testified that Gillespie consented to the
search. Corporal Daughters then asked Gillespie if
the left-rear passenger, Sellman, lived in the apartment
complex. She stated yes, and that she had picked him up as
well. Gillespie remained with Officer Kramer while Corporal
Daughters returned to the stopped car. Corporal Daughters
testified that "because of the history surrounding the
apartment complex, I wanted to identify everybody in the
vehicle." He stated:
I went back up to the vehicle [to obtain identification from
the other occupants]. Again, at that point, I had a somewhat
conflicting story about who lived in the apartment complex.
The only one that stated they had, was the right-rear
passenger, [Queen, ] the female.
asked why this was conflicting, Corporal Daughters testified:
Because now, the driver was saying that the left-rear
passenger[, Sellman, ] also lived in the apartment complex,
yet when I asked the group in the car when I first approached
who lived in the apartment complex, the only one that said
they did, was the right-rear passenger.
to conducting the search, he asked the three passengers to
identify themselves. The front-seat passenger, a male,
provided identification. Corporal Daughters testified that
Sellman "kept looking straight ahead and never looked at
me[, ]" however, "[o]nce I actually asked him a
question, he turned toward me and gave me the name and date
of birth." Queen also provided her name and date of
birth. The officer then asked Sellman if he lived in the
complex and Sellman replied that he did not, which conflicted
with Gillespie's earlier statement.
Kramer remained with Gillespie while Corporal Daughters
returned to the patrol car to run warrant checks and a
history on the three occupants, including the alias provided
by Sellman: Marcus Neal Saunders, born July 12, 1982. While
he was running a history on the names using the police
database, Corporal Daughters contacted Corporal
Miller and asked him to come to the scene to
assist, because there were four detainees- two men and two
females-and two officers at the scene. He wanted the parking
lot checked to see if any cars had been broken into. After
running the warrant checks, "[a]ll three came back with
no warrants." However, "the name Saunders had
absolutely no record through [the] MVA, local arrest records,
anything." He testified that this was
unusual. He also testified that he was confident in
the identity of the other three occupants, because two had
provided identification, and he knew the third, Queen, from a
Miller arrived shortly thereafter and exited his patrol car.
Officer Kramer remained with Gillespie at the rear of the
stopped vehicle while Corporal Miller approached the vehicle
from the right side, and Corporal Daughters approached the
vehicle from the left side. Corporal Daughters opened the
left rear door, and again questioned Sellman about his name.
Sellman replied that he had provided his correct name, and
when the officer informed him that no records came up under
that name, Sellman explained that "he'[d] never had
a driver's license, he'[d] never been arrested, [and]
he'[d] never been in trouble." The officer then
ordered Sellman out of the vehicle, and had him place his
hands on the trunk of the car. Corporal Daughters testified
that he conducted the frisk, because:
At that point, I had again conflicting stories about who had
been picked up where, whether anybody at all lived in the
apartment complex, if anybody, [and i]t was odd that they
were driving through the parking lot, [and Gillespie informed
me she was] picking people up on foot at that hour of the
morning . . . . And before I continue any further, or
continue to a search of the vehicle, which Ms. Gillespie
allowed us to do, I wanted to make sure none of the
passengers were carrying any weapons.
testified that it was his intent to search the vehicle. At
the suppression hearing, the State asked "what is the
normal course of procedure or the normal standard operating
procedures" prior to conducting a search of a vehicle.
Corporal Daughters responded:
We will take the individuals out of a car . . . have them
step out, individually, and make sure that they're not
carrying weapons or anything that can harm us . . . once
they're out of the car. And then once the car is clear,
officers or an officer will stay with the passengers or
driver, whoever the occupants of the vehicle are.
testified that he asked Sellman if he had any weapons on him
and Sellman responded no. Then, Corporal Daughters frisked
Sellman, pursuant to these standard operating procedures, and
discovered a handgun in Sellman's
to trial, Sellman moved to suppress the evidence obtained
from the frisk. He argued that the frisk was
unconstitutional, because the officers lacked a reasonable
basis to believe Sellman was armed and dangerous. On April 2
and 22, 2014, a pre-trial suppression hearing took place in
the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Corporal Daughters
testified for the State; Ms. Gillespie testified for the
defense; Officer Kramer testified as a rebuttal witness for
the State in order to corroborate Corporal Daughters'
motions judge denied the motion to suppress, and upheld the
frisk of Sellman. The judge found the initial traffic stop
was valid, because the vehicle had a broken taillight and tag
light, and that Gillespie freely and voluntarily consented to
the search the vehicle. She also found credible the
officers' description of Sellman: "[H]e appeared to
be nervous, how he was rigid, how he was looking ahead."
Lastly, the judge found that the pat down was valid.
According to the suppression court, there was reasonable
articulable suspicion to frisk Sellman, because the officers
"were outnumbered at that point in time; They were in a
high-crime area [and] it was late at night; The Defendant had
come from a dark area; His [rigid and nervous] behavior in
the vehicle led to some suspicion on their part . . . ."
trial, Sellman entered into a not guilty agreed statement of
facts to the charges of possession of cocaine with intent to
distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug
trafficking crime. He was found guilty on both charges and
was sentenced to a total of ten years in prison, the first
five to be served without the possibility of parole.
appealed the constitutionality of the frisk to the Court of
Special Appeals. In an unreported opinion, a divided panel of
the intermediate appellate court affirmed the denial of the
motion to suppress. It held, based on its review of the
totality of the circumstances, that the facts created
reasonable suspicion that Sellman was armed and dangerous,
and that he had committed or was planning to commit a crime.
Therefore, it reasoned, it was permissible for Corporal
Daughters to frisk Sellman in the interest of officer safety.
One judge dissented, and stated: "It is painfully
obvious that the officers frisked  Sellman not because they
were acting upon reasonable suspicion that he was armed and
dangerous, but because they routinely conduct suspicionless
searches of every passenger in every car they search."
filed a petition for writ of certiorari with this Court. We
granted certiorari to answer the following
1. Did the Court of Special Appeals err in finding the police
had reasonable suspicion to believe Mr. Sellman was armed and
dangerous, simply because he was stopped for generally
suspicious conduct in a high crime area where thefts from
cars had been reported at some unspecified time in the past?
2. Did the Court of Special Appeals err in finding that the
crime of theft from cars implies the use of a deadly weapon?
Sellman v. State, 446 Md. 218, 130 A.3d 507 (2016).
For the reasons stated below, we answer the questions in the
affirmative. Accordingly, we hold that the evidence seized in
violation of the Fourth Amendment was inadmissible.
Therefore, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Special
issue is the propriety of the denial of a motion to suppress
evidence obtained by way of a frisk. We have previously
When reviewing the disposition of a motion to suppress
evidence alleged to have been seized in contravention of the
Fourth Amendment . . . ., we view the evidence adduced at the
suppression hearing, and the inferences fairly deducible
therefrom, in the light most favorable to the party that
prevailed on the motion. The appellate court defers to the
trial court's fact-finding at the suppression hearing,
unless the trial court's findings were clearly erroneous.
Nevertheless, in resolving the ultimate question of whether
the detention or attendant search of an individual's
person or property violates the Fourth Amendment, we make our
own independent constitutional appraisal by reviewing the law
and applying it to the facts of the case. Thus, this Court
considers the evidence adduced at the suppression hearing,
construed in the light most favorable to the State as the
prevailing party at the suppression hearing.
Bailey, 412 Md. at 362, 987 A.2d at 80 (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted). See also Nathan
v. State, 370 Md. 648, 659, 805 A.2d 1086, 1093 (2002)
("We will review the legal questions de novo
and based upon the evidence presented at the suppression
hearing and the applicable law, we then make our own
constitutional appraisal.") (citation omitted).
argues that the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals
should be reversed, because the facts do not amount to
reasonable suspicion to justify a frisk under Terry,
392 U.S. at 30, 88 S.Ct. at 1884, 20 L.Ed.2d at 911. Sellman
argues that the record is devoid of any facts indicating he
was armed or dangerous, or linking him to the suspected crime
of theft of property from cars. He contends that the
intermediate appellate court erred in justifying the frisk
based on a generalized concern about car break-ins occurring
in the area where he was stopped, which falls short of
reasonable suspicion. In his brief, Sellman argued: "The
[intermediate appellate] court relied on the purportedly
violent nature of car break-ins, and the likelihood of weapon
use, yet required no nexus between Mr. Sellman and that
particular crime." He posits that to affirm the decision
"would allow police to automatically frisk anyone who is
stopped on reasonable suspicion as long as it takes place in
a high crime area where violent crimes occur."
the State disputes Sellman's interpretation of Court of
Special Appeals' unreported opinion, and argues that the
frisk was justified by reasonable suspicion that Sellman was
armed and dangerous. For support, the State cites to several
cases, including cases from other jurisdictions, where
factors, such as the time of night, a location in a high
crime area, or a suspect's nervous behavior, supported a
Terry frisk of a car occupant.
Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution is
applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
Holt v. State, 435 Md. 443, 458, 78 A.3d 415, 423
(2013). It guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be
secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures[.]" U.S. Const.
amend. IV; see Lewis v. State, 398 Md. 349, 361, 920
A.2d 1080, 1087 (2007) ("The Fourth Amendment, however,
is not 'a guarantee against all searches and seizures,
but only against unreasonable searches and
seizures.'") (citation omitted). "[T]he
touchstone of our analysis under the Fourth Amendment is
always the reasonableness in all the circumstances of the
particular governmental invasion of a citizen's personal
security." Lewis, 398 Md. at 361, 920 A.2d at
1087 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
"Reasonableness, of course, depends on a balance between
the public interest and the individual's right to
personal security free from arbitrary interference by law
officers." Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106,
109, 98 S.Ct. 330, 332, 54 L.Ed.2d 331, 336 (1977) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). "In these stop
and frisk cases, the reviewing court 'must evaluate the
reasonableness of a particular search or seizure in light of
the particular circumstances.'" Underwood v.
State, 219 Md.App. 565, 571, 101 A.3d 514, 518 (2014)
(quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 21, 88 S.Ct. at 1880, 20
L.Ed.2d at 906).
present case, the parties do not dispute the propriety of the
initial traffic stop based on minor traffic violations. The
purpose of that stop was fulfilled once Gillespie received
the written warning from the officers. Then, Gillespie
consented to the search of the vehicle. The issue raised is
whether, under all of the circumstances, the Terry
frisk of Sellman was permissible under the Fourth
Amendment. Our analysis, therefore, begins and ends
with the frisk.
Suspicion for a Terry Frisk
default rule requires that a seizure of a person by a law
enforcement officer must be supported by probable cause, and,
absent a showing of probable cause, the seizure violates the
Fourth Amendment." Crosby v. State, 408 Md.
490, 505, 970 A.2d 894, 902- 03 (2009). In Terry,
however, the Supreme Court of the United States
"recognized that a law enforcement officer may conduct a
brief investigative 'stop' of an individual if the
officer has a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is
afoot." Crosby, 408 Md. at 505, 970 A.2d at 903
(citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 17, 88 S.Ct. at 878, 20
L.Ed.2d at 903). See also In re David S.,
367 Md. 523, 532, 789 A.2d 607, 612 (2002) ("[A] police
officer may stop and briefly detain a person for
investigative purposes if the officer has reasonable
suspicion, supported by articulable facts, that criminal
activity 'may be afoot.'"). "[A]lthough a
reasonable stop is a necessary predecessor to a reasonable
frisk, a reasonable frisk does not inevitably follow in the
wake of every reasonable stop." Simpler v.
State, 318 Md. 311, 319, 568 A.2d 22, 25-26 (1990)
(quoting Gibbs v. State, 18 Md.App. 230, 238-39, 306
A.2d 587, 592 (1973)) (internal quotation marks omitted). To
safeguard constitutional protections guaranteed by the Fourth
Amendment, a frisk following a Terry stop is
permitted under limited circumstances:
In addition to the authority to stop and briefly detain a
person, the Supreme Court identified circumstances permitting
police officers to pat-down the subject of a Terry
"[T]here must be a narrowly drawn authority to permit a
reasonable search for weapons for the protection of the
police officer, where he has reason to believe that he is
dealing with an armed and dangerous individual, regardless of
whether he has probable cause to arrest the individual for a
crime. The officer need not be absolutely certain that the
individual is armed; the issue is whether a reasonably
prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the
belief that his safety or that of others was in danger. And
in determining whether the officer acted reasonably in such
circumstances, due weight must be given, not to his inchoate
and unparticularized suspicion or 'hunch, ' but to
the specific reasonable inferences which he is entitled to
draw from the facts in light of his experience."
Terry, 392 U.S. at 27, 88 S.Ct. at 1883, 20 L.Ed.2d
[at 909] (citations omitted). This limited search, known in
common parlance as a frisk, "is not to discover
evidence, but rather to protect the police officer and
bystanders from harm." State v. Smith, 345 Md.
460, 465, 693 A.2d 749, 751 (1997).
In re David S., 367 Md. at 533, 789 A.2d at 613.
See also McDowell v. State, 407 Md. 327, 340, 965
A.2d 877, 884 (2009) ("What Terry allows are
'necessary measures' to determine whether a person is
carrying a weapon.").
Terry, in order to conduct a frisk an officer must
have reasonable suspicion "that criminal activity may be
afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be
armed and presently dangerous . . . ." 392 U.S. at 30,
88 S.Ct. at 1884, 20 L.Ed.2d at 911; See also
Crosby, 408 Md. at 508, 970 A.2d at 904 ("[T]he
reasonable suspicion standard carries limitations[:] it does
not allow [a] law enforcement official to simply assert that
innocent conduct was suspicious to him or her.")
(internal quotation marks omitted).
reviewing whether reasonable suspicion exists, "[t]he
test is 'the totality of the circumstances, ' viewed
through the eyes of a reasonable, prudent, police
officer." Bost v. State, 406 Md. 341, 356, 958
A.2d 356, 365 (2008). The test is objective: "the
validity of the stop or the frisk is not determined by the
subjective or articulated reasons of the officer; rather, the
validity of the stop or frisk is determined by whether the
record discloses articulable objective facts to support the
stop or frisk." Ransome v. State, 373 Md. 99,
115, 816 A.2d 901, 910 (2003) (Raker, J., concurring).
Reasonable suspicion requires an officer to have
"specific and articulable facts which, taken together
with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant
that intrusion . . . ." Terry, 392 U.S. at 21,
88 S.Ct. at 1880, 20 L.Ed.2d at 906. In other words,
"[t]he officer has reason to believe that an individual
is armed and dangerous if a reasonably prudent person, under
the circumstances, would have felt that he was in danger,
based on reasonable inferences from particularized facts in
light of the officer's experience." Bailey,
412 Md. at 367, 987 A.2d at 83 (citing Longshore
v. State, 399 Md. 486, 509, 924 A.2d 1129, 1141-42
Crosby, we dedicated significant time to the subject