Appealed from the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Richland, Louisiana. Trial Court No. F-2013-34. Honorable E. Rudolph McIntyre, Jr., Judge.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, Peggy J. Sullivan, Counsel for Appellant.
JOHN M. " MACK" LANCASTER, District Attorney; DOUGLAS WHEELER, Assistant District Attorney, Counsel for Appellee.
Before STEWART, DREW and MOORE, JJ.
[49,365 La.App. 2 Cir. 1]
The defendant, Deontia J. Monroe, was charged with possession of cocaine in violation of La. R.S. 40:967(C). He pled guilty pursuant to a Crosby plea agreement which included a sentence of three years at hard labor, suspended, with three years of supervised probation, court costs and a fine of $1,000. Monroe now appeals the denial of his motion to suppress. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment denying the motion to suppress and, accordingly, vacate the conviction and sentence.
At approximately 4:30 a.m. on December 9, 2012, while patrolling Chicago Street in Delhi, Louisiana, Officer Tim Crum stopped a vehicle for a minor traffic violation. The driver got out of the car and walked around the front of the vehicle, ignoring commands from Officer Crum to approach him. As the driver walked rapidly away from the car, Officer Crum unsuccessfully attempted to use his taser to subdue him, but the driver fled the area. During this time, a back seat passenger also exited the vehicle and fled.
Shining his flashlight into the vehicle, Officer Crum discovered a front seat male passenger who was either passed out or sleeping. He called for assistance without attempting to awaken the passenger. When Deputy Tyler Wade arrived, the two officers awoke the man by banging on the windows. According to Officer Crum, the passenger awoke disoriented and failed to obey commands to raise his hands. He said the man appeared to [49,365 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] reach down under the seat and then he grabbed the ignition keys. At that time, Deputy Wade removed him from the vehicle. The officers handcuffed, searched, and placed the defendant in the back of the patrol car under arrest for interfering with an officer by removing the keys from the ignition. The two officers then searched the vehicle and discovered a bag of cocaine under the front passenger seat where the defendant was sitting.
The defendant was subsequently charged by bill of information with possession of cocaine. He filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized, i.e. the bag of cocaine, as a result of the warrantless search. Although both Officer Crum and Deputy Wade were involved in the search and arrest, the sole witness to testify at the evidentiary hearing was Officer Crum.
Officer Crum testified at the hearing that at approximately 4:24 a.m. on the morning of December 9, 2012, he stopped a vehicle after the driver made a left turn without signaling. The driver turned on Chicago Street in Delhi, then into a driveway and parked. As Officer Crum approached the vehicle, the driver got out of the car and walked to the ...