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State ex rel. D.P.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

November 29, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANAIN THE INTEREST OF D.P.

         APPEAL FROM JUVENILE COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2016-203-05-DQ-B, SECTION "B" Honorable Tammy M. Stewart, Judge

          Leon A. Cannizzaro, Jr. DISTRICT ATTORNEY Donna Andrieu, Chief of Appeals ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY Mithun Kamath ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY PARISH OF ORLEANS COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE/STATE OF LOUISIANA.

          Tenee Felix LOUISIANA CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S RIGHTS COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

          Court composed of Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Regina Bartholomew Woods, Judge Tiffany G. Chase

          DANIEL L. DYSART, JUDGE

         As a result of a traffic stop of his mother on March 11, 2016, D.P., who was fifteen at the time of his arrest, was charged with violation of La. R.S. 40:966 E(1)(i), possession of marijuana. On November 17, 2016, the trial court held a hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress evidence, and an adjudication of the charges against him. The trial court denied his motion to suppress and found D.P. guilty as charged. On January 19, 2017, the trial court sentenced D.P. to fifteen days in custody, but suspended the sentence and placed him on six months of probation.

         D.P. appeals the adjudication arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence.

         BACKGROUND:

         On March 11, 2016, Detective Lawrence Weathersby, Jr., and Sergeant Joseph Davis conducted a traffic stop at N. Rampart and Flood Streets in New Orleans. While on patrol, the officers observed a vehicle abruptly swerve to avoid pedestrians in the street. The officers stopped the vehicle, and Det. Weathersby approached the driver side and Sgt. Davis approached the passenger side of the vehicle. Both officers testified that as they approached, they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle. Det. Weathersby testified that at that point what was initially a traffic stop became a narcotics investigation. He advised the driver of her Miranda rights, explaining that as her passenger was her juvenile son, the rights extended to him. He asked D.P.'s mother to produce her license, registration and proof of insurance, at which time he noticed clear plastic baggies in the glove box. Based on his experience, he asked the driver if she had narcotics in the vehicle, to which she responded by handing the detective a bag of marijuana that was in her purse.

         Det. Weathersby stated that he initially told D.P.'s mother that she would likely be issued a summons for possession of a small amount of marijuana. However, after seeing the baggies, Det. Weathersby suspected that there were more narcotics in the vehicle. He ordered both the mother and son out of the vehicle. Sgt. Davis handcuffed D.P.

         A further search of the vehicle revealed more narcotics. Sgt. Davis testified that he could smell marijuana on D.P. As narcotics and drug paraphernalia had been discovered in the vehicle, Sgt. Davis patted D.P. down for weapons and narcotics. He felt a small bulge in D.P.'s pocket and heard the sound of cellophane or plastic. A search of D.P.'s pocket revealed a bag of marijuana.

         D.P.'s mother was placed under arrest for possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and was transported to central lock-up. D.P. was placed under arrest for possession of marijuana and was transported to juvenile lock-up.

         DISCUSSION:

         In his sole assignment of error, D.P. argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Applied to the facts of the case, the issue is whether the police officers had reasonable suspicion to justify the pat-down of D.P., and whether ...


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