Keith A. Hebert
State of Alabama
Amended August 18, 2015.
from Russell Circuit Court. (CC-13-147).
Appellant: Sirena L. Saunders, Phenix City.
Appellee: Luther Strange, atty. gen., and Stephen N. Dodd,
asst. atty. gen.
Judge. Kellum and Burke, JJ., concur. Windom, P.J., and
Joiner, J., concur in the result.
A. Hebert was charged with possession of a controlled
substance, a violation of § 13A-12-212, Ala. Code 1975.
He filed a pretrial motion to suppress drug evidence seized
during a traffic stop. The trial court denied the motion
following a hearing. Hebert then pleaded guilty to the
charge, reserving for appeal the trial court's denial of
the motion to suppress. The trial court sentenced Hebert, as
a habitual felony offender, to 15 years in prison.
following testimony was presented at the hearing on
Hebert's motion to suppress. Russell County Sheriff's
Deputy Charles Hall executed a traffic stop because the
driver had failed to signal before making a turn. Hebert was
driving the vehicle and Karen Singleton was a passenger. Hall
testified that Hebert pulled promptly to the side of the road
when Hall activated the blue lights on his cruiser. Hall
testified that he ran the license plate on an Internet Web
site that " pulls up the person it belongs to," and
that indicated the owner was " a medium threat
level." (R. 6.) He stated that, because of the elevated
threat level presented by Hebert indicated on the Web site,
he used more caution than he would have had the threat level
approached the car and obtained Hebert's license,
registration, and proof of insurance. Hebert seemed nervous,
Hall said, so he asked Hebert to step out of the car. Hebert
complied. Hall asked him whether he had any weapons on his
and Hebert said he had a knife. Hall patted Hebert down and
recovered four folding knives. He then directed Hebert to
stand at the rear of Hebert's car. He was not placed in
handcuffs. Hall asked Singleton to step out of the car and
asked her whether she had any weapons on her person.
Singleton told Hall that she had no weapons, and he then
directed her to move to the rear of Hebert's car. Hall
stated that, while Hebert was standing by the car, he
appeared very nervous and " kind of aggressive,"
and he moved around a lot. (R. 10.) Hall completed the
traffic citation and gave it to Hebert.
testified that, once a citation is issued, he usually
releases the motorist, and the motorist is free to leave. At
that point in some traffic stops, Hall testified, he
sometimes asks for consent to search the cockpit area of the
vehicle for officer safety. Hall asked Hebert for permission
to search the vehicle, but Hebert refused, said he was
leaving, and walked toward his vehicle. Hall testified that
he was in fear for his safety because Hebert was trying to
get back to his vehicle and because Hall did not know what
was in the vehicle. Therefore, Hall stated, he stopped Hebert
and told him he was not leaving, handcuffed him, and placed
him in the patrol car. Hall told Hebert that he was not under
arrest, but that " [h]e was being detained for
observation." (R. 16.) Hall explained the reasons he
placed Hebert in handcuffs:
" Because he was trying to -- when I told him -- I asked
him about the weapons and he was acting real nervous and then
he said he was leaving and go[ing] to the vehicle, I was in
fear for my safety. And they teach us that on a traffic stop,
anybody can get caught in an area where they can get a
weapon, they could do harm to me if I'm by myself trying
to get them out of a vehicle."
(R. 17.) When he testified on cross-examination that he had
detained Hebert for officer safety, he again explained,
" I didn't know what was in the vehicle and the way
he was acting when he went towards the vehicle, for officer
safety." (R. 23.) He later stated that he had suspicions
of further criminal activity " from how he was acting
nervous and wanting to get to the vehicle, and I already
found four knives on him, and his past criminal record."
remained at the rear of Hebert's car while Hall
handcuffed and detained Hebert. Hall testified that he asked
Hebert and Singleton whether there was anything in the
vehicle that he needed to know about before he searched it
for weapons, and Singleton told him there was a glass pipe
under the front passenger seat. Hall told Singleton to get
the pipe, and she walked to the vehicle by herself and
reached under the passenger seat for the pipe, which she then
brought back to Hall. Hall was asked on cross-examination
whether, when he told Singleton to return to the car to get
the pipe, he was concerned that Singleton could get a gun or
other weapon that she could use to hurt him. He testified
that he was concerned about officer safety, but that he
watched her while she retrieved the pipe.
stated that he believed the pipe was of the type used to
smoke methamphetamine, and he noted a white residue inside
the pipe. Hall testified that he then asked them whether
there was anything else in the vehicle he needed to know
about, and Hebert told him that a bag of methamphetamine was
under the floor mat on the driver's side of the vehicle.
Hall walked to the vehicle to retrieve the bag, and he then
observed a six-inch hunting knife between the driver's
door and the seat, and two more knives in the cockpit area
within arm's reach of the driver. Hebert claimed
ownership of the methamphetamine. Hall arrested him for
possession of drug paraphernalia and for possession of
methamphetamine. Hall also stated that the pipe provided
probable cause to arrest Hebert, and that he would have
searched the car and found the methamphetamine and the knives
when the car was searched ...