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State v. Miller

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 20, 2019


          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 355, 791 Honorable Katherine Clark Dorroh, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Paula Corley Marx Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee


          Before WILLIAMS, COX, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         This criminal appeal arises from the First Judicial District Court, Caddo Parish, Louisiana. The defendant, Craig Miller, was found guilty of simple burglary following a jury trial and was sentenced to eight years at hard labor. This out of time appeal followed.[1] For the following reasons, Miller's conviction and sentence are affirmed.


         On March 19, 2018, Miller was charged by bill of information with the simple burglary of 905 Francais Drive, Shreveport, Louisiana, in violation of La. R.S. 14:62.[2] The offense was committed on February 18, 2018. In December 2018, a jury trial was held, and the following evidence was adduced.

         Officer Cody Hyde, a patrol officer with the Shreveport Police Department ("SPD"), testified he was working patrol alone on February 18, 2018, when he received a dispatch call at approximately 11:00 p.m. regarding a suspicious person or possible burglary occurring at a business located at 905 Francais Drive, Shreveport, Louisiana. That business was identified as being the office of Royal Contractors. Officer Hyde testified he had been given the description of the suspect's vehicle as a maroon Pontiac. As related by Ofc. Hyde, while traveling southbound down Kingston Road en route to 905 Francais Drive, he observed a late model maroon vehicle he believed to be a Pontiac pull out of the parking lot of 905 Francais Drive. The vehicle passed him traveling northbound on Kingston. Officer Hyde further observed that the vehicle was "loaded down with toolboxes and [had] metal sticking out of the trunk with the trunk open."

         Officer Hyde described observing a "lifted" Ford truck behind the maroon vehicle. He testified he turned behind the maroon vehicle and engaged his audio and visual signals to effect a traffic stop on the vehicle, which came to a stop. Officer Hyde exited his patrol car, and the passenger exited the vehicle a few seconds later. At trial, Ofc. Hyde identified Miller as the passenger in the vehicle. According to Ofc. Hyde, Miller immediately began talking about the various items inside the car and said that the man in the lifted truck was following them. Officer Hyde testified that he had the driver exit the vehicle, and he identified the driver as Michael Smith.

         The motor vehicle surveillance video from Ofc. Hyde's vehicle was entered into evidence, and it depicted what Ofc. Hyde described in his testimony regarding the stop of the maroon vehicle. On the video, the two suspects stated, "It was all in the dumpster." Officer Hyde testified he placed Miller in the back of his patrol car, and another officer went to retrieve Drew Ratley, the owner of Royal Contractors. Officer Hyde recounted Ratley had witnessed Miller and Smith's activities at the business.[3]

         Officer Hyde testified that he had Ratley identify the items in the trunk of the maroon vehicle. The items Ratley identified as belonging to him or his employees were three toolboxes, a DeWalt tool bag with an air gauge, rolls of painter plastic, multiple water jugs, scrap metal wire, and a bag of tools. Ratley also identified additional stolen items on the video. On the video, Ratley stated all of the items had been located inside the business except the scrap wire and metal and several of the stolen items belonged to his employees. Officer Hyde then advised Miller and Smith of their Miranda rights and placed them under arrest.

         Officer Hyde testified that Ratley produced personal identification and his truck was dark blue with a "Royal Contractors" vinyl decal wrapping the entirety of the truck. According to Ofc. Hyde, officers did not attempt to get fingerprints or DNA from the Royal Contractors building. At the scene, Ratley informed Ofc. Hyde there was no video surveillance at the business. Officer Hyde testified that he did not speak with Ratley's employees to determine if the tools were theirs, and he noted the toolboxes and tool bags did not have any identifying markings on them. Officer Hyde noted he ...

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