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Johnson v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 16, 2017

SINCLAIR JOHNSON APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM MADISON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE WILLIAM G. CLOUSE, JR., JUDGE ACTION NO. 15-CR-00529

          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Kathleen K. Schmidt Department of Public Advocacy John Gerhart Landon Assistant Public Advocate Frankfort, Kentucky.

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky Frankfort, Kentucky Megan Kleinline Assistant Attorney General Frankfort, Kentucky.

          BEFORE: KRAMER, CHIEF JUDGE; D. LAMBERT AND NICKELL, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          LAMBERT, D., JUDGE.

         Sinclair Johnson, who stands convicted by virtue of a conditional guilty plea, brings this appeal of a denial of a suppression motion entered by the Madison Circuit Court. He asks us to review the propriety of the detention following the traffic stop leading to his arrest. Having reviewed the record and finding no error, we affirm.

          I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Officer Erik Stallworth staked out a Richmond bar, the "Paddy Wagon, " watching for criminal activity. He observed a vehicle for several minutes, during which time an individual exited the passenger side and walked away while the driver remained. Stallworth followed the car as it left. After having observed the suspicious vehicle make two turns without signaling, Stallworth activated his light bar, in an attempt to pull it over. Only after Stallworth "chirped" his siren, did the vehicle eventually pull over. Johnson was its only occupant.

         Stallworth noticed Johnson's bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, and nervous demeanor, testifying in a suppression hearing that those facts led him to believe Johnson may be under the influence. Stallworth observed Johnson repeatedly stick his hands into his pockets. Johnson also failed to provide his registration and insurance information, and refused to open the vehicle's glove compartment to look for them.

         Stallworth asked Johnson to step out of the vehicle for a sobriety test. Johnson initially refused to exit the vehicle, but upon Stallworth opening the door and asking again, he complied. Stallworth testified that Johnson was still reaching into his pockets, and, for officer safety, he briefly handcuffed Johnson to pat him down for weapons. The search having yielded no weapons, Stallworth removed the handcuffs and proceeded with the field sobriety tests.

          Stallworth directed Johnson to perform several of the most commonly-used testing methods, and concluded that each indicated Johnson to be intoxicated. During the horizontal line nystagmus test, Johnson exhibited a lack of smooth pursuit, and two of the six indicators of intoxication. Johnson swayed while performing the one-leg-stand test. Johnson also lost his balance during the walk-and-turn test, and stepped off the line. At that point, Stallworth informed Johnson that he would be placed under arrest for suspected DUI, and Stallworth called for a K-9 unit to assist in searching the vehicle.

         The K-9 unit arrived as Stallworth was still in the process of arresting Johnson. Goku, the drug dog, indicated the presence of controlled substances in the rear of the vehicle, and a search of the rear bumper revealed methamphetamine and heroin. A search of Stallworth's person revealed $3, 455 in cash.

         A grand jury indicted Johnson on drug charges. He moved to suppress the products of the search, arguing that Stallworth had impermissibly extended the traffic stop without probable cause or a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The trial court conducted a hearing on the motion and denied it.

         Johnson entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to this appeal. He stands convicted of two counts of trafficking in controlled substances in the first degree, and one count of DUI. Johnson received two concurrent five year sentences on the felonies, and a ...


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