State of Alabama
Released for Publication July 18, 2014.
Appeal from Jefferson Juvenile Court. (JU-10-53387). Brian Huff, Trial Judge.
For Appellant: Tobie J. Smith, Birmingham.
For Appellee: Luther Strange, Attorney General, Ferris Stephens, Assistant Attorney General.
WINDOM, Presiding Judge. Welch, Kellum, Burke, and Joiner, JJ., concur.
WINDOM, Presiding Judge.
G.M. appeals his guilty-plea juvenile-delinquency adjudication for unlawful possession of a controlled substance. See § 13A-12-212(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975. On March 4, 2011, G.M. filed a motion to suppress evidence in which he argued that the search and subsequent seizure of cocaine from his wallet violated the 4th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and Art. I,§ 5 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901. Following a hearing, the juvenile court denied G.M.'s motion. Thereafter, G.M. pleaded " true" to the charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance and reserved the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.
During the suppression hearing, the State presented evidence indicating that G.M. and E.M., G.M.'s cousin and close friend, were students at Homewood High School, a public school. E.M. was brought to the assistant principal's office for having a cellular telephone on campus, in violation of school policy. After E.M. denied having the telephone, Assistant Principal Eddie Cunningham used a metal detector to scan E.M. in an attempt to locate the cellular telephone. The metal detector sounded as it passed over E.M.'s back pocket. Cunningham then instructed E.M. to remove the contents of his pocket, which contained E.M.'s wallet and a battery for a cellular telephone. Cunningham opened the wallet and discovered several small bags of cocaine.
After discovering the cocaine, Cunningham asked E.M. who he had ridden to school with that morning and with whom he had been associating that day. E.M. told Cunningham that he had been with G.M. earlier that day. At that point, an English language learning (" ELL" ) teacher, who was there to translate for E.M., suggested that school officials question G.M. The ELL teacher described E.M. and G.M. as " peas [in] a pod." (R. 10.) Cunningham informed the school's principal, Dr. Kevin Maddox, that cocaine had been found on E.M. and that G.M.'s name had been mentioned during the investigation.
Dr. Maddox explained that, based on his personal observations of E.M. and G.M. and the " web" of information from other students and teachers, the boys' " interact[ions] with one another [were] not typical of [the] student[s] at Homewood High School." (R. 28-29.) Dr. Maddox testified that E.M. and G.M.'s close association and behavior led school officials to believe that they were in a gang together. Because E.M. and G.M. were close friends, had been together earlier that day, and were possibly in a gang, Dr. Maddox called G.M. into his office for questioning about cocaine.
Once G.M. arrived in the principal's office, Dr. Maddox explained to G.M. that his name had been mentioned during an investigation of another student and asked G.M. if he had " anything on [him] today at school that [he was] not suppose[d] to have [there]." (R. 17.) G.M. replied that he did not. Dr. Maddox then informed G.M.
that, out of concern for student safety, " [he] was going to conduct a search to make sure [G.M.] didn't have anything ... on him." (R. 17.) G.M. was cooperative and emptied his pockets as instructed. While looking through the items G.M. placed on the table, Dr. Maddox discovered a small bag of cocaine inside the pocket of G.M.'s wallet. The cocaine found in G.M.'s wallet formed the basis of his ...