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State v. Compass

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

October 4, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
IRVIN COMPASS

          APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 545-957, SECTION "E" Honorable Keva M. Landrum-Johnson, Judge

          Leon Cannizzaro, Jr. DISTRICT ATTORNEY Donna Andrieu CHIEF OF APPEALS Irena Zajickova ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY PARISH OF ORLEANS COUNSEL FOR RELATOR /STATE OF LOUISIANA

          D'Juan Mansfield Orleans Public Defenders COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT/DEFENDANT

          Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano

          Daniel L. Dysart, Judge

         The State seeks review of the trial court's August 22, 2019 ruling which granted a Motion to Suppress and its finding of no probable cause. For the reasons stated more fully herein, we find that the trial court erred, and, therefore, grant the State's writ application, reverse the trial court's ruling and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The defendant, Irvin Compass, was charged by a June 21, 2019 bill of information with three counts: illegal carrying of a weapon, a violation of La. R.S. 14:95 (second offense); possession of marijuana, a violation of La. R.S. 40:966 C(2); and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use, a violation of La. R.S. 40:1023. Mr. Compass entered a plea of not guilty on July 15, 2019. He then filed an omnibus motion for suppression of statements, evidence and identifications on August 15, 2019.

         The trial court conducted a hearing on August 22, 2019 and held the matter open so that a body camera video could be reviewed. On September 24, 2019, the trial court ruled, granting the motion to suppress and finding no probable cause. Notably, the trial judge indicated that she "did not watch the video; because . . . it was [not] formally submitted in evidence." Paradoxically, the trial court also stated that it based its ruling upon "the officer - - the witness' testimony [not being] credible, based on the body cam and the testimony about the body cam."

         The State timely filed an application for a writ of supervisory review.

         DISCUSSION

         At the outset, we note that the trial court is afforded much discretion with respect to its ruling on a motion to suppress. See State v. Wells, 08-2262, p. 5 (La. 7/6/10), 45 So.3d 577, 581 ("a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence is entitled to great weight and will not be set aside absent an abuse of discretion."). Under the circumstances of this case, however, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion to suppress and in finding that the police officers lacked probable cause for Mr. Compass's arrest.

         At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the State called Officer Mario Bravo, who was assigned to the First District Task Force on February 16, 2019. At that time, he was in communication with Officer April Augustine and Officer Darius McFarland, who advised him by radio transmission that there was a motorbike being operated in a reckless manner. Officer Bravo located the motorbike at a gas station and proceeded to arrest Mr. Compass. Officer Bravo's partner, Duncan Chauffe, provided Miranda warnings, [1] after which Mr. Compass's backpack was searched and a pistol, marijuana, a digital scale, and plastic bags were discovered. Officer Bravo ran Mr. Compass's name and discovered that he had a prior conviction for "carrying a firearm."

         In his questioning on cross-examination, counsel for Mr. Compass attempted to elicit testimony from Officer Bravo suggesting that the stop of Mr. Compass was a pretext for searching Mr. Compass.[2] However, Officer Bravo was steadfast in his testimony that Mr. Compass was arrested for "operating his motorbike in a reckless manner." He repeated this fact throughout his testimony and answered in the affirmative to the question of whether his testimony was "that Officer McFarland ...


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