APPLYING FOR SUPERVISORY WRIT FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL
DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA,
DIRECTED TO THE HONORABLE E. ADRIAN ADAMS, DIVISION
"G", NUMBER 19-4240
composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Robert A. Chaisson, and
John J. Molaison, Jr.
the State of Louisiana, seeks review of the November 20, 2019
ruling of the trial court that granted defendant Devin
Lacrosse's motion to suppress evidence.
22, 2019, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed a bill
of information charging defendant with possession with intent
to distribute marijuana in the amount of less than two and
one half pounds, in violation of La. R.S. 40:966(A).
Defendant thereafter filed a motion to suppress evidence on
the basis that it was seized without a warrant and without
reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
November 20, 2019 hearing on defendant's motion to
suppress, Patrol Officer Brandon Macheca with the Gretna
Police Department testified regarding the circumstances
surrounding the stop of defendant and the subsequent search
of his vehicle. According to Officer Macheca, at
approximately 8:20 p.m. on June 6, 2019, he was on proactive
patrol when he conducted a traffic stop of defendant's
moving vehicle for illegal window tint, a traffic violation.
Defendant pulled the vehicle into the driveway of 810 21st
Street in Gretna, and as Officer Macheca exited his vehicle,
defendant immediately exited his vehicle, shut the door, and
took a few steps away from it. As defendant shut his door,
Officer Macheca noted, "like a gust of wind from
shutting the door, I detected the odor of marijuana coming
from the vehicle." Officer Macheca explained that he has
made arrests and conducted traffic stops involving marijuana,
that he is familiar with the smell of marijuana, that there
is a difference between the smell of fresh and burning
marijuana, and that in this case, he smelled fresh marijuana.
Macheca ordered defendant to the front of the officer's
vehicle and advised him of his rights. Defendant waived his
rights, and Officer Macheca questioned him about the smell,
which defendant denied knowing anything about. Office Macheca
proceeded to conduct a search of the vehicle for marijuana or
drug paraphernalia based on the marijuana odor he had
detected. He relayed that he began the search at the front of
the vehicle, then the cab, and as he moved toward the trunk,
the odor grew stronger. Ultimately, Officer Macheca located a
black backpack containing a large bag and several smaller
bags of marijuana, two scales, "two other large
bags," and a gun magazine. Officer Macheca subsequently
the conclusion of Officer Macheca's testimony, the
defense argued that there were no exigent circumstances to
justify the search as Officer Macheca did not indicate that
he felt threatened by defendant, did not call for back-up,
and did not believe there was a threat of defendant
destroying contraband in the vehicle. He referenced Officer
Macheca's testimony that he did not obtain consent to
search the vehicle and argued that Officer Macheca could have
applied for a search warrant or had a canine perform a sniff.
The State responded that exigent circumstances were not
required under the circumstances of this case, and that
probable cause for a search of the entire vehicle, including
the trunk, existed at the moment Officer Macheca smelled
marijuana emanating from the vehicle.
considering the evidence presented and the arguments of
counsel, the trial court granted the motion to suppress
evidence, stating: "The Court does not find that there
were exigent circumstances that were presented during the
hearing, and at that particular time of the date in question,
to allow the officer to actually go into the trunk without
getting a search warrant."
State now challenges this ruling, arguing that the trial
court erred in finding that a lack of exigent circumstances
rendered the search of defendant's trunk illegal. It
notes that the automobile exception does not have a separate
exigency requirement and asserts that the officer had
probable cause to search the vehicle once he smelled the
marijuana. We agree with the State's arguments.
State v. Brown, 17-420 (La.App. 5 Cir. 2/21/18), 239
So.3d 455, 461-62, writ denied, 18-480 (La.
1/18/19), 262 So.3d 281, this Court summarized the law on
warrantless searches of vehicles as follows:
In Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U.S. 938, 940, 116
S.Ct. 2485, 2487, 135 L.Ed.2d 1031 (1996) (per
curiam), the United States Supreme Court held that if a
car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it
contains contraband, the Fourth Amendment permits the police
to search the vehicle. In Maryland v. Dyson, 527
U.S. 465, 466-67, 119 S.Ct. 2013, 2014, 144 L.Ed.2d 442
(1999) (per curiam), the Supreme Court
explained that the "automobile" exception has no
separate exigency requirement. This Court has also recognized
that the "automobile" exception does not have an
independent exigency requirement, and if probable cause
exists for the search of the vehicle that is sufficient. The
exigency is supplied by the inherent mobility of the vehicle
and the citizen's lesser expectation of privacy.
State v. Mitchell, 10-334 (La.App. 5 Cir. 10/26/10),
52 So.3d 155, 160 (citing Joseph, 850 So.2d at 1054).
In addition, the Louisiana Supreme Court has recognized that
there is no constitutional distinction between seizing and
holding a car before presenting the probable cause issue to a
magistrate and immediately searching the vehicle without a
warrant. Mitchell, supra; Joseph, supra.
Given probable cause to search, either course is reasonable
under the Fourth Amendment and the Louisiana Constitution.
State v. Tatum, 466 So.2d 29, 31 (La. 1985)
Probable cause means "a fair probability that contraband
... will be found." Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S.
213, 238, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 2332, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983);
Mitchell, supra. Whether probable cause exists must
be judged by the probabilities and practical considerations
of everyday life on which average people, and particularly
average police officers, can be ...