Circuit Court for Montgomery County Case No. 124874
Graeff, Fader, Eyler, James R. (Senior Judge, Specially
Montgomery County jury convicted the appellant, Jason
Nathaniel Carter, of possession of crack cocaine and
possession of 50 grams or more of crack cocaine,
acquitted him of possession with intent to distribute crack
cocaine. Mr. Carter challenges the circuit court's: (1)
denial of his motion to suppress more than 70 grams of crack
cocaine and more than three grams of cocaine that police
seized from him during a traffic stop; and (2) refusal to
instruct the jury that "intent to distribute" is an
element of the offense of possession of 50 grams or more of
crack cocaine. We find no error in the circuit
court's denial of the motion to suppress or in its jury
instruction, and so affirm.
challenge to a ruling on a motion to suppress, we are limited
to considering the facts presented at the motions hearing,
Nathan v. State, 370 Md. 648, 659 (2002), and we
must view those facts in the light most favorable to the
prevailing party, Belote v. State, 411 Md. 104, 120
(2009). Our discussion of background facts adheres to both of
early morning hours of April 4, 2014, Montgomery County
Patrol Officer Michael Mancuso observed a car being driven by
Mr. Carter fail to make a complete stop at a stop sign while
driving in a high-crime area known for drug activity. Officer
Mancuso followed the car, pacing its speed at approximately
48 miles per hour in a 40 miles-per-hour zone. At
approximately 12:52 a.m., Officer Mancuso pulled Mr. Carter
over and obtained his license and registration. Mr. Carter
displayed signs of being extremely nervous.
Mancuso returned to his car at 12:57 a.m. and promptly: (1)
requested a K-9 unit to conduct a scan for narcotics; and (2)
ran a records check, which revealed that Mr. Carter's
license was valid and that he did not have any outstanding
warrants. Officer Mancuso estimated that it took him
approximately eight-to-ten minutes to perform the various
license and records checks. At 1:00 a.m., after the records
check was complete, Officer Mancuso opened the electronic
system to write Mr. Carter warning citations for both the
failure to stop and speeding violations. From that point,
it "probably took about five to seven minutes" to
write the citations. During that same time, Officer Mancuso
also briefed another officer, Officer Gary Finch, who had
arrived on the scene at approximately 1:02 a.m.
Jason Buhl of the K-9 unit, along with Konner, his
drug-sniffing dog, arrived on scene at 1:07 a.m. At that
time, Officer Mancuso had not yet finished writing the
citations. At approximately 1:09 a.m., after he had briefed
Officer Buhl, Officer Mancuso ordered Mr. Carter out of his
car and to stand behind the patrol car so that the canine
scan could proceed. Within 15-20 seconds, Konner alerted to
the presence of narcotics on the driver's seat of Mr.
search of the car yielded nothing illegal, Officer Michael
Murphy conducted a pat-down search of Mr. Carter. After
Officer Murphy noticed an unnatural bulge in the area of Mr.
Carter's groin, Mr. Carter became combative. It took all
four officers to place Mr. Carter in handcuffs. The search
ultimately produced two plastic baggies containing more than
70 grams of crack cocaine and three grams of cocaine. The
officers then placed Mr. Carter under arrest.
Carter moved to suppress the drugs. After a hearing at which
Officers Mancuso and Buhl, along with Mr. Carter, testified,
the Circuit Court for Montgomery County made findings of
• Upon returning to his vehicle, Officer Mancuso
"promptly" called for the K-9 unit and initiated
the records checks (including license, warrant, and case
• Officer Buhl and Konner "arrived before Officer
Mancuso had finished writing the tickets."
• Mr. Carter "was removed from his vehicle so the
canine search could be conducted."
• The drug-sniffing dog "more or less immediately
• "[T]here was no delay, intentional or otherwise,
by the stopping officer between the time he began questioning
the driver at 12:51:57 and 1:00am."
• "[T]here was no delay by the stopping officer
between 1:00am and 1:07:19am when the canine officer
• This is not a case where the officer engaged in delay
and "dilly dallied waiting for the canine officer.
That's not this case."
• "[T]here was no delay. This was ordinary
court also concluded that the search was "incident to
[Mr. Carter's] arrest, " and so denied the motion to
Carter was tried before a Montgomery County jury on charges
of possession of crack cocaine, possession with intent to
distribute crack cocaine, and possession of 50 grams or more
of crack cocaine. At the conclusion of a three-day jury
trial, the trial court instructed the jury that to convict
Mr. Carter of the crime of possession of 50 grams or more of
crack cocaine, which the court referred to as "volume
dealer, " the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt
that Mr. Carter "possessed 50 grams of crack
cocaine." The trial court rejected Mr. Carter's
contention that the jury should also be instructed that
"volume dealer" required the State to prove that
Mr. Carter intended to distribute the crack cocaine. The jury
acquitted Mr. Carter of possession with intent to distribute,
but convicted him of both simple possession and possession of
50 grams or more of crack cocaine. The trial court merged the
two convictions and sentenced Mr. Carter to the mandatory
minimum sentence of five years' incarceration for
possession of 50 grams or more of crack cocaine.
The Motions Court Did Not Err In Denying Mr.
Carter's Motion to Suppress.
Carter argues that the suppression court's ruling must be
reversed for two reasons. First, he contends that Officer
Mancuso lacked reasonable suspicion to authorize what was
effectively a second stop to investigate potential drug
activity. Mr. Carter concedes that Officer Mancuso had
probable cause to detain him for the traffic offenses. But he
contends that Officer Mancuso abandoned that traffic stop
when he paused from writing Mr. Carter's citations to
assist Officer Buhl with the canine search. Thus, Mr. Carter
reasons, the traffic stop ended at that point and Officers
Mancuso and Buhl needed reasonable suspicion of drug activity
to proceed with the canine search. Second, Mr. Carter argues
that Officer Mancuso's search of his person was not
incident to arrest because Mr. Carter was not yet arrested,
and there was no indication that he would be arrested, until
after the drugs were found.
reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress evidence, we defer
to the suppression court's findings of fact unless
clearly erroneous. Holt v. State, 435 Md. 443, 457
(2013); Longshore v. State, 399 Md. 486, 498 (2007).
We only consider the facts presented at the motions hearing,
Nathan, 370 Md. at 659, and we view those facts in
the light most favorable to the prevailing party,
Belote, 411 Md. at 120. "[W]e review the
hearing judge's legal conclusions de novo,
making our own independent constitutional evaluation as to
whether the officer's encounter with the defendant was
lawful." Sizer v. State, 456 Md. 350,
362 (2017). Each of these encounters is unique, and our
review looks to the totality of the circumstances on the
specific facts of the case before us. Id. at 363;
Belote, 411 Md. at 120.
The Original Traffic Stop Was Ongoing When the Canine
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides
that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . ."
The Court of Appeals has generally interpreted Article 26 of
the Maryland Declaration of Rights to provide the same
protections as the Fourth Amendment. Byndloss v.
State, 391 Md. 462, 465 n.1 (2006).
Fourth Amendment's protections extend to investigatory
traffic stops such as that of Mr. Carter. United States
v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 682 (1985); Ferris v.
State, 355 Md. 356, 369 (1999). In determining whether
such stops violate an individual's Fourth Amendment
rights, courts examine the objective reasonableness of the
stop. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813
(1996). Thus, an otherwise-valid traffic stop does not become
unconstitutional just because the actual purpose of the law
enforcement officer making the stop was to investigate
potential drug crimes.
Whren stops-valid but pretextual traffic stops
undertaken for the primary purpose of investigating other
illegal activity-though "a powerful law enforcement
weapon, " Charity v. State, 132 Md.App. 598,
601 (2000), are restricted in scope and
execution. A Whren stop "'must be
temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate
the purpose of the stop.'" Ferris, 355 Md.
at 369 (quoting Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500
(1983)). This Court has recognized, though, that officers may
pursue investigations into both the traffic violation and
another crime "simultaneously, with each pursuit
necessarily slowing down the other to some modest
extent." Charity, 132 Md.App. at 614. But
investigation into the original traffic violation cannot
"be conveniently or cynically forgotten and not taken up
again until after [the other] investigation has been
completed or has run a substantial course." Id.