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State v. Forest

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 31, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
COREY FOREST

          Session: October 18, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Maury County No. 24034 Robert Jones, Judge

         The Defendant, Corey Forest, was indicted for possession of twenty-six grams of cocaine with the intent to sell in a drug-free school zone, possession of marijuana, and unlawful possession of a firearm. The Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress the warrantless search of his vehicle. The trial court denied the Defendant's motion, and the Defendant pleaded guilty to the lesser-included offense of possession of more than .5 grams of a Schedule II substance and to unlawful possession of a firearm, and attempted to reserve a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) about whether the stop of the Defendant's vehicle by law enforcement was lawful. After review, because the Defendant has failed to properly comply with Rule 37, we dismiss the Defendant's appeal.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed

          John S. Colley, III, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Corey Forest.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Gary M. Howell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John Everett Williams and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE.

         I. Facts and Background

         This case arises from the stop of the Defendant's vehicle on April 8, 2014, and the subsequent search of the Defendant's vehicle during which law enforcement officers found cocaine, marijuana, and a handgun.

         Before trial, the Defendant filed a motion to suppress, contending, among oter things, that the City of Columbia police officer lacked jurisdiction to act outside the City of Columbia, that police officers illegally stopped his vehicle, and that any evidence derived from the subsequent search of his vehicle should be suppressed. At the hearing on the motion, the following evidence was presented: Officer Neylan Barber testified that he worked for the Columbia Police Department and that he stopped the Defendant's vehicle for speeding on April 18, 2014. Officer Barber stated that he was following the Defendant's vehicle as part of a drug investigation. The narcotics task force believed that drugs were being sold at an apartment complex, and the police were monitoring a residence at the apartment complex for the two days leading up to the stop of the Defendant's vehicle. Investigators observed the Defendant at the residence and, each time he left the residence, the amount of traffic at the residence would increase. Investigators also observed the Defendant's vehicle at the apartment complex on multiple occasions and, on each occasion, there was "increased traffic" coming and going from the complex. The narcotics task force eventually received confirmation that narcotics were being sold from the particular residence the Defendant frequented over those two days.

         Officer Barber followed the Defendant's vehicle from the apartment complex, at the direction of Lieutenant James Shannon from the narcotics task force. He observed the Defendant speeding and initiated a traffic stop at approximately 10:15 p.m., and a recording of the stop was played for the trial court. Officer Barber testified that he observed the Defendant's vehicle traveling 60 miles per hour in 55 mile per hour and 50 mile per hour speed zones. The Defendant provided Officer Barber with a driver's license and proof of insurance but was unable to provide his registration at that time.

         Officer Barber testified that the Defendant also provided him with a handgun carry permit. When the Defendant took the permit and driver's license out of his wallet, Officer Barber observed what appeared to be a "couple hundred dollars" in twenty dollar bills in the Defendant's wallet. Officer Barber described how, as shown in the video, he left the Defendant's vehicle and returned to his police vehicle to run the Defendant's license through the NCIC database and through the Tennessee State Portal system to check for outstanding warrants. Officer Barber then returned to the Defendant's vehicle at 10:22 p.m. to get the Defendant's registration from him. Another officer arrived at the scene at 10:23 p.m. Officer Barber stated that the Defendant said he had just come from a restaurant, which Officer Barber knew to be untrue because he had followed the Defendant from a "known drug house" at the apartment complex.

         Officer Barber asked for consent to search the Defendant's vehicle. He suspected that the Defendant was in possession of illegal narcotics based on the following facts: the residence the Defendant came from, the amount of money in his wallet, his frequenting the residence often over the course of the two-day period and the subsequent increase in traffic to and from the residence, and the Defendant lying about where he had come from when he was stopped. The Defendant refused to consent to a search and Officer Barber informed him that a K-9 officer (narcotic drug dog) was going to perform a search around his vehicle to check for illegal narcotics. At this point, Officer Barber had not written a speeding citation for the Defendant. The K-9 officer indicated the presence of ...


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