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State v. Williams

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

September 8, 2017

State of Alabama
v.
Tommy Williams

         Appeal from Montgomery Circuit Court (CC-16-441)

          WINDOM, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         The State of Alabama appeals the circuit court's order suppressing evidence of cocaine discovered in Tommy Williams's pocket during a traffic stop. For the reasons that follow, this Court reverses the circuit court's order and remands the cause for further proceedings.

         On February 21, 2013, Cpl. A.T. Caffey of the Montgomery Police Department stopped Williams's automobile because Williams failed to signal while turning. During the traffic stop, Cpl. Caffey discovered cocaine in Williams's pocket and arrested him for possession of a controlled substance. On April 8, 2016, a Montgomery County grand jury indicted Williams for unlawful possession of a controlled substance. See § 13A-12-212(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975. On May 10, 2016, Williams filed a motion to suppress the cocaine that formed the basis of his indictment. In his motion, Williams did "not challenge that his traffic stop was properly initiated due to his turning without signaling, and thus d[id] not suggest the Officer's action was not justified at its inception other than the fact that there [was] no ... ticket ... issued to Williams." (C. 30.) "Rather, Williams maintain[ed] that all evidence seized as a result of the ... events, and any and all statements and derivative evidence flowing therefrom, should be suppressed because they are the result of a search and seizure of Williams' person that violated his Fourth Amendment rights." (C. 30.) Specifically, Williams argued that the officer lacked any grounds to order him out of his automobile; therefore, any evidence obtained after he was ordered out of the automobile should be suppressed.

         On June 1, 2016, the circuit court held a suppression hearing during which the State presented testimony from one witness, Cpl. Caffey. Cpl. Caffey testified that on February 21, 2013, he witnessed Williams "turning off of the boulevard onto Carmichael Road" without signaling. Cpl. Caffey activated his emergency lights to pull Williams over for turning without signaling. See § 32-5A-133, Ala. Code 1975. When Cpl. Caffey activated his lights, Williams pulled his automobile into the parking lot of a Waffle House restaurant.

         Cpl. Caffey and his partner approached Williams's vehicle. As they approached, they saw that "[Williams] was moving sporadically. He wasn't just sitting still. He wasn't moving as if he was going for a wallet. He kept moving to the right side of his body." (R. 5.) When asked the difference between a driver reaching for his wallet and Williams's behavior, Cpl. Caffey testified:

"It's a big difference. Most people, they would just do a single motion to grab a wallet. At the time [Williams] kept reaching down to his right side and then he would sit up. Then he would reach to his right side again while watching me in the mirror approach the vehicle."

         (R. 5.)

         When Cpl. Caffey reached Williams's automobile, he asked Williams for his driver's license, tag receipt, and proof of insurance. Williams provided his driver's license and tag receipt but did not have insurance. Because of Williams's behavior and because he was acting nervously, Cpl. Caffey instructed him to get out of the automobile. Williams, however, refused and "started playing with some paper." (R. 7.) Cpl. Caffey again instructed Williams to get out of the automobile, and Williams again refused and "started putting his hand in and out of his right-front side pocket." (R. 7.) At that point, Cpl. Caffey

"grabbed his left hand and ... instructed him to stop putting his hand in his pocket [and to put his right hand out of the window]. [Cpl. Caffey again] instructed him to step out of the vehicle .... So [Williams] complied after [Cpl. Caffey] grabbed his hand. [Cpl. Caffey] opened the door, and [Williams] stepped out."

(R. 7.) Cpl. Caffey testified:

"Once he stepped out of the vehicle, I conducted a pat-down immediately. I started on the right side of his body since that was where he was grabbing, where he was reaching. Once I started on his pants, I came up to his right-side pocket. I felt a bulge, and the first word out of his mouth was it's cocaine."

(R. 8.) Cpl. Caffey testified that he patted down Williams for weapons because of Williams's erratic movements and persistence ...


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