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Baez v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

August 31, 2018

RONALD BAEZ
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

          Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No. CT161114X

          Eyler, Deborah S., Shaw Geter, Raker, Irma S. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          Raker, J.

         Ronald Baez, appellant, was convicted in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County of possession of marijuana. He appeals from the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence and he presents one question for our review, which we have rephrased:

Did the police have reasonable articulable suspicion to stop appellant's vehicle solely for a window-tint violation?

         We shall answer that question in the affirmative and affirm the judgment of conviction.

         I.

         Appellant was indicted by the Grand Jury for Prince George's County with five offenses: possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana, possession of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. On the day of trial, counsel informed the court that the parties had reached an agreement, and they would proceed on the charge of possession of marijuana only, with a not guilty plea and an agreed-upon statement of facts. Appellant would litigate his motion to suppress the evidence based upon the lack of probable cause or reasonable grounds for the officer to stop his vehicle, and if the court denied the motion, defense counsel told the court the following:

"If the motion is successful, then obviously the case is over. If it is not successful, if Your Honor finds that a stop was valid, then the parties have an agreed-upon plea as well as a sentencing agreement that we would run by Your Honor."

         The trial court heard an agreed-upon statement of facts supporting appellant's motion to suppress and denied the motion, found appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and sentenced appellant to a term of incarceration of one year, all but one day suspended, credit for time served, and eighteen months unsupervised probation.

         The parties presented the following agreed-upon statement of facts for the court's decision on the motion to suppress, stating as follows:

"[THE STATE]: So [appellant] was pulled over pursuant to a traffic stop for a tint violation. There's no dispute that it was violating the Maryland tint law; however, the vehicle was registered in Virginia.
So [appellant] is arguing that the tint law violation does not apply and, therefore, the basis-there's not sufficient basis for the stop. The State would argue that the vehicle was being driven in Maryland and needed to comply with Maryland law.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: That's correct, Your Honor. We stipulate that there was a stop in Prince George's County, the basis of which was as stated in the charging document, for a window tint exceeding Maryland state minimum. And the parties also stipulate that the vehicle was registered and tagged through the Commonwealth of Virginia. And those are the agreed-upon facts."

         Following this statement to the court, the parties argued their legal theories to the court, and as indicated, the court denied the motion to suppress. The court reasoned as follows:

"I looked at the case and I looked at the law again and I think that when an officer suspects a violation, I think that he is justified in conducting a stop. What he does beyond that, he has a lot of discretion as to whether he issues a citation or how he handles the stop, but I think under the case of Turkes [v.] Maryland, it's clear that a tint violation can provide ...

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