CASEY O. JOHNSON
STATE OF MARYLAND
Woodward, Arthur, Leahy, JJ.
you don't have time to do it right, when will you have
time to do it over?" John Wooden, UCLA Head Coach
snowy evening in January, 2015, a Montgomery County Police
Officer became suspicious that criminal activity may be afoot
after he stopped Casey O. Johnson ("Appellant" or
"Johnson") for a broken tail light in Germantown,
Maryland. After more officers and a K-9 unit arrived at the
scene, Johnson and her two passengers were asked to exit the
vehicle. The police searched Johnson's two jacket pockets
and found nothing, but when they searched Anthony Haqq, the
front passenger, they found a baggie of 13 grams of marijuana
in his waistband and smelled PCP on his breath. As they
arrested the front passenger, the police proceeded to search
Johnson's entire vehicle, including the trunk, while the
K-9 stood idly by. A digital scale and 104.72 grams of
marijuana were found inside a paper bag inside a backpack
that was inside the trunk. Then the officers arrested
Johnson, and during the search incident, found $544.00 on her
jury charged Johnson with possession of marijuana with intent
to distribute and conspiracy possession of marijuana with
intent to distribute. Prior to trial in the Circuit Court for
Montgomery County, Johnson moved to suppress all evidence
seized by the police, who she claimed, violated the
protection afforded her under the Fourth Amendment to the
United States Constitution against unreasonable searches and
seizures. The circuit court denied Johnson's motion, and
the case proceeded to trial. The jury found Johnson guilty of
possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and the
court sentenced Johnson to five years suspended in favor of
appeal, Johnson presents two issues for our review:
1. "Did the police have reasonable articulable suspicion
to continue detaining Ms. Johnson after a reasonable amount
of time to process a traffic stop had passed?"
2. "Did the police have probable cause to search Ms.
Johnson's trunk based on drug evidence found on the
person of her front-seat passenger?"
questions confine our review to the facts and argument
presented before the suppression court. See Longshore v.
State, 399 Md. 486, 498-99 (2007); Ferris v.
State 355 Md. 356, 368 (1999). Because the officers
lacked probable cause to believe that drugs were in the trunk
based solely on the drugs found in the waistband and on the
breath of the front passenger, we hold that the suppression
court erred by concluding the officers were permitted to
conduct a warrantless search of the trunk pursuant to the
Carroll Doctrine. See Carroll v. United
States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925); see also
California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565, 580
(1999); United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798 (1982);
Wilson v. State, 174 Md.App. 434 (2007).
Given our disposition of this issue, we need not address
Johnson's first question.
circuit court held a hearing on Johnson's motion to
suppress on April 16, 2015. Because the State tried Johnson
and her front-seat passenger, Haqq, together, the suppression
court heard arguments from both defendants on their pending
motions. Johnson claimed the officers lacked reasonable
articulable suspicion to prolong the stop past the purpose of
writing a citation for the traffic law violation and that the
officers lacked probable cause to search the trunk of
Johnson's vehicle. Officers Robert Sheehan and Michael
Mancuso testified for the State, and Haqq testified for the
defense. The following facts were established at the
suppression hearing from these witnesses, and from Officer
Sheehan's dashboard camera video of the traffic stop,
which was played during his testimony.
defective tail light on Johnson's car was apparent on the
video of the stop that occurred at 7:25 p.m. on January 9,
2015 near the intersection of Middlebrook Road and Germantown
Road in Germantown. Johnson had two passengers with her:
Anthony Haqq in the front seat and Kevin
Helms in the back seat.
time of the stop, Officer Sheehan was assigned to the
Germantown District Community Action Team, a unit placed
"in areas of high crime for crime suppression." He
had served as a police officer for twelve years, including
approximately one year on the Special Investigations Criminal
Street Gang Unit, and approximately one year on the Special
Investigations Narcotics Enforcement Team. Officer Sheehan
also took several classes concentrating on drug interdiction,
and completed 417 hours of training on drug interdiction. He
testified that the stop occurred in a high-crime area.
Sheehan explained that he initiated the traffic stop to issue
the driver a safety equipment repair order. When he activated
his emergency equipment, Johnson drove "very slowly,
" turned into a Safeway parking lot, and stopped in the
second parking aisle. It had been
snowing and was dark out, so Officer Sheehan shined a
spotlight on the rear window of Johnson's vehicle.
Movements and Nervousness
Sheehan perceived, through the rear window of the vehicle,
Johnson and the front-seat passenger, Haqq, making
"furtive movements." Specifically, he observed:
It looked like [Johnson] may have been manipulating something
in the center console area. She was bent over it. I could see
her hand, her left hand on the steering wheel as she bent
over the center console area, reaching in that area and
reaching over towards Haqq's seat. . . . I could see her,
portion from her elbow up moving, and I could see her
shoulder. I couldn't see her arm. I'm sorry. Her
* * *
[Haqq] was moving around in his seat. He appeared to be
either reaching under his seat on to the floorboard in front
of his seat, and occasionally would lift his rear end up off
the seat and then bring it back down, as if he was either
trying to reach underneath where he was sitting, or the seat
or the floorboard.
contested Officer Sheehan's observations and testified
that neither he nor Johnson were moving around in their
Sheehan related that, after observing the furtive movements,
the first thought that came to his mind was that the
vehicle's occupants were trying to conceal drugs or
weapons. So at 7:25:50 p.m. he "jump[ed] out of [his]
car real quick to [go] up to the vehicle to see what was
going on." Shining his flashlight into the vehicle as he
approached, he observed Haqq "leaned over his own
legs" and that "his hands were in between his
legs." According to Officer Sheehan, when he got to the
driver's window and introduced himself, Haqq
"immediately jumped back in his seat . . . and pulled
his shirt down over his crotch area." Johnson's
"voice was shaking[, ]" and Officer Sheehan
observed "the carotid pulse in her neck [was] beating
Sheehan attested that in his twelve years of experience
conducting traffic stops, he developed a sense for
"traffic stop nervous, " which he described as
"a normal baseline for a person that I just stopped for
a regular violation." Johnson, however, was
"extremely nervous" according to Officer Sheehan,
who described Johnson's "trembling" hands
"fumbl[e] through her wallet for her license . . .
." From these observations, Johnson appeared to Officer
Sheehan more nervous than "traffic stop nervous."
asked Haqq for help locating the vehicle's registration
in the glove box, but "he didn't move" and
instead sat "like a statue" staring out the window.
Haqq's brief testimony during the hearing that he
"just sat in [his] seat and stared out the window"
was consistent with Officer Sheehan's version of the
returning to his patrol car at 7:26:27 p.m., Officer Sheehan
called in to request that his Germantown District Community
Action Team members assist him with the stop. Immediately
thereafter, he began processing the traffic stop on
"eTix, " and conducting the routine license,
registration, and warrant checks in four
systems. While conducting these
checks he observed Haqq resume making furtive movements.
Specifically, Officer Sheehan testified that "[a]s I am
working on the computer, I can see now that Mr. Haqq is no
longer statue-esque [sic] and not moving" but rather,
"I could see . . . the top of [Haqq's] body moving
back and forth . . . lifting up off his seat and leaning back
a little bit" and "his arms moving in front on
him." At the point on the video corresponding to Officer
Sheehan's testimony, a voice is heard on the video
informing Officer Sheehan that "NICIC clear. 2009
Mitsubishi 4-door. License status, valid. Points zero. NCIC
after Officer Sheehan received the information on the
background checks, Officer Dos Santos arrived at the stop at
7:29:30 p.m. Officer Sheehan brought Officer Dos Santos up to
date, explained that he had already requested a K-9 unit, and
recommended that they wait for another member of the team to
arrive for "officer safety reasons" before
approaching the vehicle again because there were three
occupants in the car. At 7:32 p.m. Officer Mancuso arrived,
and after Officer Sheehan summarized his observations, the
three officers approached Johnson's car.
Frisk and Search Incident
Sheehan asked Johnson to step out of the car so that he could
show her the broken brake light and ask her a few questions.
The video displayed the following exchange beginning at
Officer Sheehan: Who are these people in the car with you?
Ms. Johnson: Oh. My friends.
Officer Sheehan: Friends? Where are y'all coming from?
Ms. Johnson: Coming from right over here.
Officer Sheehan: Okay. And then stopping you, I could see a
lot of movement in the car, all right?
Ms. Johnson: Oh. Okay.
Officer Sheehan: Okay? You were moving around a lot, he was
moving around an awful lot, front passenger, and I
couldn't see him because of the salt on the window.
Ms. Johnson: Oh. Okay.
Officer Sheehan: What were you guys doing?
Ms. Johnson: Oh, nothing. I was just, I mean, moving around,
because I don't understand. I was just (unintelligible),
I wasn't doing anything.
Officer Sheehan: Okay. All right. Is anything illegal in the
car that I need to know about? No drugs?
Ms. Johnson: No.
Officer Sheehan: No weapons?
Ms. Johnson: No, sir.
Officer Sheehan: Okay. Where do these guys live? Do they live