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State v. Bryant

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 3, 2014

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
JONATHAN CASEY BRYANT

Assigned on Briefs September 9, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Warren County No. F-13763 Larry B. Stanley, Jr., Judge

Daniel James Barnes (on appeal), McMinnville, Tennessee, and John P. Partin (at guilty plea), McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jonathan Casey Bryant.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Lisa S. Zavogiannis, District Attorney General; and Thomas J. Miner and Sheila Miner, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

OPINION

D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On August 3, 2012, a Warren County grand jury indicted the Defendant for initiating a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine, a Class B felony; for promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine, a Class D felony; and for possessing drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-425, -433, -435. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of his traffic stop, requesting simply that the trial court "suppress all evidence obtained during and after an illegal seizure and search conducted without reasonable suspicion or probable cause on June 23, 2012."

During a hearing on the motion, Officer Ben Cantrell, with the McMinnville Police Department, testified that around 11:00 a.m. on June 23, 2012, he observed a vehicle being driven by Charleston Dakota Ortega, and the Defendant was a passenger in that vehicle. The vehicle was packed with personal belongings according to Officer Cantrell, and Officer Cantrell was familiar with both Ortega and the Defendant, knowing their previous involvement with methamphetamine production. Officer Cantrell knew that there was a warrant out for Ortega's arrest, so he initiated a traffic stop by activating his blue lights. As soon as Ortega exited the vehicle, Officer Cantrell attempted to place him under arrest, but Ortega fled on foot. Officer Cantrell began to chase Ortega but decided to return to his unattended patrol car and the Defendant who was still present on the scene. After a conversation with the Defendant, Officer Cantrell placed him in handcuffs, stating to the Defendant that he was only being detained and was not under arrest. Officer Cantrell explained that he did so due to "safety concern[s, ]" being there by himself with no other officers to assist him.

Officer Cantrell learned that neither Ortega nor the Defendant were the registered owner of the vehicle. Because the Defendant did not have a driver's license, Officer Cantrell determined that the vehicle would have to be towed. As Officer Cantrell began to inventory the car, he discovered a roll of aluminum foil, arousing his suspicions about the manufacture of methamphetamine. Officer Cantrell also observed a locked safe. He asked the Defendant who the safe belonged to, and the Defendant replied that he had sold the safe to a friend. Officer Cantrell asked the Defendant if he still had the key, to which the Defendant said yes and produced the key from his pants pocket. The Defendant consented to a search of the safe, where Officer Cantrell discovered more materials used in the methamphetamine manufacturing process. Officer Cantrell then placed the Defendant under arrest, and Officer Cantrell estimated that the entire episode lasted about twenty minutes.

At the conclusion of the hearing, several issues where addressed by the parties: reasonable suspicion to support the Defendant's detention, the validity of the inventory search, the voluntariness of the Defendant's consent, and the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. Ultimately, the trial court ruled that the stop was proper and denied the Defendant's motion to suppress.

Thereafter, the Defendant pled guilty to the promotion of the manufacture of methamphetamine, and the initiating the process to manufacture methamphetamine charge was dismissed.[1] Under the terms of the agreement, he received a sentence of four years, with 180 days to serve followed by probation. As part of his plea, the Defendant, pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2)(A) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, attempted to reserve the right to appeal a certified question of law dispositive of the case. The judgment of conviction form contained the following notation within the special conditions section:

Upon entering this guilty plea, the [D]efendant has reserved his right to appeal a certified question of law regarding issues raised during the argument of a [m]otion to [s]uppress heard 2/6/2013[.] The State of Tennessee and the [c]ourt have consented to the reservation of this certified question of law and are of the opinion that the certified question is dispositive of the case. A certified question of law presenting the issues the ...

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