Circuit Court for Worcester County Case No.: 23-K-16-000512
Woodward, C.J., Shaw Geter, Battaglia, Lynne, A. (Senior
Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Lawrence Steck, appellant, was convicted by a jury sitting in
the Circuit Court for Worcester County of possession with
intent to distribute heroin, possession of heroin, possession
with intent to distribute cocaine, and possession of cocaine,
after which the court sentenced him to a term of imprisonment
for fourteen years.
to trial, Steck had filed a Motion to Dismiss the charges
against him, alleging that the State had destroyed
exculpatory evidence. After having had his motion denied, the
judge proceeded to hear evidence regarding Steck's Motion
to Suppress, which was also subsequently denied. About two
months later, but prior to trial, after receiving additional
material from the State, Steck successfully filed a Motion to
Reopen his Motion to Suppress, which was, again, ultimately
denied. Before us, Steck presents the following questions for
the lower court err in denying Mr. Steck's Motion to
the lower court err in denying Mr. Steck's Motion to
no error or abuse of discretion, we affirm, for the reasons
set forth below.
early morning of August 7, 2016, while working bicycle patrol
in the area of First Street and St. Louis Avenue in Ocean
City, Officer Dan McBride, of the Ocean City Police
Department, observed a "2008 black Chevy Impala"
with a "Delaware registration" stop at a stop sign
and then make a left-hand turn, crossing over one lane of the
roadway. At the suppression hearing, Officer McBride
testified that when the "vehicle went to make a
left-hand turn, it pulled out in front of a taxicab, which
caused the taxicab [driver] to . . . slam on his brakes to
avoid a collision with the vehicle." Believing that the
driver had committed a traffic violation, Officer McBride,
according to his testimony, "broadcast a description of
the vehicle and the occupants" over a radio network used
by the Ocean City Police Department. The vehicle was
subsequently stopped by Officer Neshawn Jubilee of the Ocean
City Police Department. Officer McBride testified further
that after broadcasting this information, he immediately
began riding his bicycle to the area of the traffic stop,
arriving within three or four minutes after witnessing the
"unsafe lane change."
arriving on the scene of the traffic stop, Officer McBride
confirmed that the vehicle stopped was the Chevy Impala he
witnessed nearly get into an accident with the taxicab and
identified Etoyi Roach as the driver, Steck in the backseat, and
another passenger in the front seat. After speaking with the
vehicle's occupants, Officer McBride testified that he
walked to Officer Jubilee's patrol car, sat inside it,
and "began issuing Mr. Roach a written warning [for the
unsafe lane change] and then requested a K-9 unit to respond
to the scene."
suppression hearing, Officer McBride informed the court that
he chose to request a canine unit "based on the behavior
of the occupants, which [was] noted in [his] report, as well
as the information that Officer Jubilee had relayed[, ]"
including that "it took a little longer to pull over
than usual . . . [the Impala] almost ran a red light when it
pulled over and kind of coasted to a stop. And [Officer
Jubilee] said that as he approached the vehicle, the driver -
the occupants were making some furtive movements around the
Officer Jubilee testified that, the Impala "did not stop
until the ocean block of 8th street, which is three city
blocks further than where I initiated the traffic stop."
As he pulled up to the vehicle, he noticed that, "the
occupants were looking around. Their hands were moving about
the car. I did not know exactly what they were doing, but
they were looking around at each other and their hands were
also moving." The occupants of the vehicle provided
Officer Jubilee their licenses upon request, and at that
point, Officer McBride arrived on the scene and took control
of the traffic stop. Officer McBride further testified that
after he made his request for the canine unit, it took a
"couple minutes" for a team to arrive, and he was
still in the process of writing Roach's warning when it
suppression hearing, Deputy Christopher Larmore, of the
Worcester County Sheriff's Office Patrol Division,
testified, also, that he was in the area of Third Street and
Atlantic Avenue when he received a request for canine
support. He further testified that it took him and his canine
partner, Simon, a "couple of minutes" to travel
from the location wherein they received the request to the
scene of the traffic stop. Upon the K-9 team's arrival,
Deputy Larmore requested that Officer McBride and the other
officers remove the occupants from the vehicle for safety
reasons. Shortly thereafter, Deputy Larmore and Simon
conducted a scan of the vehicle, at which time Roach, Steck,
and the other passenger were all seated on a nearby curb.
Deputy Larmore further related:
So I get up to scan the vehicle with my K-9 partner. I give
him his command to scan the vehicle. . . . And at that point
in time, I notice a change of his breathing and posture and
his general behavior. And it's consistent with when
he's in the odor of narcotics. . . .
When he got in the area of the rear passenger door, Your
Honor, he began to go back and forth between sniffing the
vehicle and sniffing the gusts of wind that were blowing from
the general direction of the occupants. So, basically, at
this point in time, he is showing the signs of behavior of
being in odor, but he's actually going back and forth,
trying to pull me in different directions.
Larmore explained through his testimony that since Simon was
kind of, fighting two different odors here, he won't
actually go into what's called a final alert, which is
his sit. That's his trained response. All of the other
responses that he's giving me are involuntary responses.
Those are the responses that he gives when he's in the
odor of the five odors I just mentioned.
asked by Officer McBride whether Simon provided an alert at
the scene, Deputy Larmore testified that he informed the lead
officer that he "believed that the odor was mostly
coming from the occupants and that's why [Simon] kept
trying to pull me to them." Deputy Larmore further
testified that Simon's behavior was "consistent with
odor coming from the vehicle" and "odor coming from
the individuals sitting on the curb."
Larmore also testified on direct examination that he believed
the odor to have originated from the occupants, but explained
that, perhaps, Simon was also indicating to the car because
"of the odor having been recently in the vehicle from
the occupants who obviously had gotten out just before."
At the end of his direct examination, Deputy Larmore
concluded that, at the time of the scan, he considered there
to be "two sources" of the odor - the vehicle and
Corey Gemerek, of the Criminal Investigation Division, Ocean
City Police Department, testified that after the scan was
complete, he approached Steck and "asked if he had any
drugs and/or illegal weapons on his person." According
to Detective Gemerek, Steck replied "that he had a blunt
inside his pocket." Detective Gemerek then asked Steck to
remove it from his pocket; Steck, in turn, "retrieved a
clear plastic bag containing marijuana and handed it to"
Detective Gemerek. Detective Gemerek then handed Officer
McBride the marijuana.
the seizure of the marijuana, the officers searched the
vehicle and, discovered one thousand bags of what turned out
to be heroin.
filed two motions to suppress the seizure of the heroin, both
of which were denied. All of the testimony discussed herein
relates solely to that which was developed at the suppression
reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress evidence,"
appellate courts "ordinarily consider only the
information contained in the record of the suppression
hearing, and not the trial." Lewis v. State,
398 Md. 349, 358 (2007) (citations omitted). In these cases,
we are limited to viewing "the evidence and all
reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most
favorable to the prevailing party on the motion[, ]"
which here, is the State. Id. (citations omitted).
While "we will not disturb the [circuit] court's
factual findings unless clearly erroneous[, ]" we
"review legal questions de novo[.]"
Grant v. State, 449 Md. 1, 14-15 (2016) (quoting
State v. Wallace, 372 Md. 137, 144 (2002), cert.
denied, 540 U.S. 1140 (2004)). Where a party "has
raised a constitutional challenge to a search or a ...