REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2015-CA-000370-MR
FAYETTE CIRCUIT COURT NO. 14-CR-00102
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Brandon Neil Jewell Assistant Public
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear, Attorney General of
Kentucky, James Daryl Havey Assistant Attorney General
Rakim Moberly, appeals from the Court of Appeals'
decision which affirmed the trial court's denial of his
motion to suppress evidence discovered in his vehicle during
a traffic stop. Upon entering a conditional plea to preserve
the issue for appeal, Appellant was convicted of possession
of a controlled substance, first degree, and carrying a
concealed deadly weapon. The controlled substance and the
weapon were found after a canine sniff search indicated the
presence of drugs. We granted discretionary review to
consider whether the initial traffic stop had been
impermissibly prolonged to allow the canine search to
proceed. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the Court
of Appeals' decision.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Police Officer Roman Sorrell was following a vehicle in the
very early hours of a December morning. He performed a
registration check on the vehicle license number and
discovered that the vehicle's registration had been
cancelled because it had no liability insurance coverage.
Sorrell initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle at 3:35 a.m.
Appellant was driving the vehicle.
Sorrell's request, Appellant provided his driver's
license. He told Sorrell that the car was not his and-that he
could not provide proof of insurance. Sorrell described
Appellant as fully cooperative but abnormally nervous and
sweating at the brow. Appellant was smoking a cigarette and
blowing the smoke into the vehicle's interior. He kept
looking toward the right side of the car.
took Appellant's driver's license back to his cruiser
and began writing the traffic citation. He also spent about
five minutes accessing a jail website and a police database
to find out more information about Appellant. That inquiry
disclosed that Appellant had been charged previously with
trafficking in marijuana and carrying a concealed deadly
weapon; it did not indicate whether Appellant had been
convicted of these charges.
returned to Appellant's vehicle. He told Appellant that
he knew about the prior charges. He asked if Appellant had
drugs or weapons in the vehicle. Appellant said he did not.
Sorrell asked for consent to search the vehicle, and
Appellant declined. Sorrell acknowledged that at that point
in the usual traffic stop, he would have given the driver a
citation and let him leave. However, because Appellant seemed
nervous, was sweating, blew his cigarette smoke into the
vehicle instead of toward the officer, kept looking to the
right side of the car, and had prior charges, Sorrell decided
that he would detain Appellant further while he called for a
canine unit to conduct a sniff search of the vehicle.
canine handler, Officer Jones, arrived with the dog within a
few minutes. After speaking to Sorrell and Appellant, Jones
retrieved the dog and conducted a sniff search of the car.
The dog alerted to indicate the presence of drugs on the
driver's side of the vehicle.
and yet another officer who had arrived on the scene then
searched Appellant's vehicle. In the-glove compartment
(not on the driver's side of the car as the dog
indicated), they found a cigarette box containing cocaine and
methylone, a controlled substance they thought was heroin..
They also found a handgun under the driver's seat.
Appellant was arrested at 4:20 1 a.m., some forty-five
minutes after the initial stop.
was indicted on two counts of trafficking in a controlled
substance (heroin and cocaine); receiving stolen property
(the firearm); and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. He
moved to suppress the incriminating evidence on the basis
that he was detained by the sniff search beyond the time
reasonably required to complete the traffic stop.
the trial court denied the suppression motion, Appellant
preserved his right to appeal by entering a conditional
guilty plea to one count of possession of a controlled
substance, first degree, cocaine, and carrying a concealed
deadly weapon. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial
court's denial of Appellant's motion to suppress. We
granted discretionary review.
reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress,
the findings of fact are reviewed under a clearly erroneous
standard, and the conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.
Davis v. Commonwealth, 484 S.W.3d \ 288,
290 (Ky. 2016) (citations omitted). Since the parties do not
challenge the trial court's findings of fact, we turn our
attention to the trial court's conclusions of law.
trial court concluded, and no one disputes, that the initial
traffic stop was justified when Sorrell obtained information
indicating that the vehicle was uninsured. Wilson v.
Commonwealth, 37 S.W.3d 745, 749 (Ky. 2001) ("[A]n
officer who has probable cause to believe a civil traffic
violation has occurred may stop a vehicle regardless of his
or her subjective motivation in doing so.").
trial court also acknowledged our holding in Commonwealth
v. Bucalo, 422 S.W.3d 253, 258 (Ky. 2013), that a lawful
traffic stop may nevertheless violate an individual's
Fourth Amendment rights
'if its manner of execution unreasonably infringes
interests protected by the Constitution' or it last[s]
longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the
stop.' Generally, if an officer unreasonably
prolongs the investigatory stop in order to facilitate ...