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State v. Jones

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 9, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs November 8, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Maury County No. 24044 Robert L. Jones, Judge

         Defendant, Taboris Jones, was convicted of possession with intent to sell more than 0.5 grams of cocaine within 1, 000 feet of a school, and the trial court applied the Drug Free School Zone Act (the Act) to enhance Defendant's sentence. Defendant also pleaded guilty to simple possession of marijuana and improper display of registered license plate. The trial court imposed concurrent sentences of fifteen years for the cocaine charge, and ten days for simple possession of marijuana. The trial court also imposed a $250.00 fine for the marijuana charge and a $5.00 fee for improper display of a license plate. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for possession of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine with intent to sell within 1, 000 feet of a school and that the Drug Free School Zone Act should not apply to his cocaine conviction. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed.

          L. Samuel Patterson, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Taboris Jones.

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

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.




         At approximately 8:30 p.m. on April 7, 2014, Officer Jason Lovett of the Spring Hill Police Department was traveling eastbound on West Seventeenth Street when he observed a black Chevrolet truck at the four-way stop of the intersection of West Seventeenth Street and Highland Avenue in Columbia. Officer Lovett noted that Highland Park Elementary was in the area of the intersection. The parties stipulated at trial that Highland Park Elementary School met the statutory definition of a school pursuant to the Drug Free School Zone Act. At the time, Officer Lovett was driving an unmarked unit and was assigned to the Maury County Drug Task Force. He had been investigating illegal narcotics since 2007.

         Officer Lovett testified that the vehicle came to a complete stop at the intersection and turned right onto West Seventeenth Street which placed the truck in front of Officer Lovett. As Officer Lovett followed the truck, he noticed that there was no light illuminating the tag of the vehicle. Officer Lovett radioed Deputy Joey Parks, his "backup" officer, and initiated a traffic stop near the water tower across from a mobile home park. Officer Lovett approached the vehicle and asked the driver, identified as Defendant, for his driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. Defendant gave Officer Lovett his driver's license, and Officer Lovett took the license back to his patrol car to check on its status, and he checked the status of Defendant's license plate. As Officer Lovett was checking the information, Deputy Parks walked up to Defendant's truck and asked him to step out of the vehicle. Defendant got out of his truck and stood in front of Officer Lovett's car with Deputy Parks. Officer Lovett heard Deputy Parks request consent to search Defendant truck, and Deputy Parks asked Defendant if there was anything illegal inside the vehicle. Officer Lovett testified that Defendant became "extremely irate." He said that Defendant began cursing and said that he was only pulled over because he was black.

         When asked if Defendant consented to a search of his vehicle, Officer Lovett testified: "Not that I'm aware of. It just got so bad the way he was acting and stuff. To me, it was prolonging things." At that point, Officer Lovett ran his canine dog Abbi, who is a certified narcotics detection dog, around Defendant's truck. Abbi alerted on the driver's side door seam by scratching at the door. Officer Lovett placed Abbi back in his vehicle and informed Defendant that he was going to search Defendant's truck because the dog had detected a "narcotic odor" in the vehicle.

         As Officer Lovett began searching Defendant's truck he heard Deputy Parks yell, "he's running." Officer Lovett began chasing Defendant and eventually lost sight of him near Chevy White's parking lot, and Officer Lovett stopped running. Deputy Parks had returned to his vehicle and alerted other officers to be on the lookout for Defendant. He also drove around the area looking for Defendant. Officer Lovett returned to Defendant's truck and continued his search. Underneath the driver's seat, he found a green pill bottle and a digital scale with a white powdered residue on it. Officer Lovett also found a marijuana blunt in the ashtray.

         When Officer Lovett returned to his office he field tested the white residue on the scale, and it was presumptively positive for "cocaine base." The pill bottle contained one bag of "powder, " and there was a second bag in the bottom of the bottle that "had a little bit of crumbs stuck inside of it." Officer Lovett also field tested residue in the pill bottle, and it was positive for "cocaine base." He then sent everything but the digital scale by Lieutenant Doelle to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Crime Lab for testing.

         Officer Lovett was tendered and qualified as an expert in the field of narcotics investigation. He was familiar with the common quantity of cocaine sold and purchased in the area and that the commonly sold amount or used amount is "a 20, " which is a "20 rock." Officer Lovett testified that a 20 rock usually costs twenty dollars and weighs approximately 0.1 grams. He said, "It's a very minute amount. It just gives them enough fix. It's a quick get [sic] is what it is."

         Officer Lovett testified that in reference to charging an individual for possession of cocaine for sale, he looks for multiple baggies, digital scales, and currency. He also checks the individual's phone to see whom they have been talking to. Officer Lovett testified that with respect to a "user, " he looks for pipes. He said, "I'm actually looking for pushers, char broil, which is actually an S.O.S. pad." Officer Lovett testified that he found nothing in Defendant's vehicle for the use of cocaine. However, Defendant had everything that he needed to sell cocaine such as the digital scales and what Officer Lovett estimated to be three grams of cocaine. He did not know if Defendant had currency on his person because Defendant ran. Officer Lovett had never known of a cocaine user carrying a digital scale. As to the marijuana blunt, Officer Lovett testified that he seized it and charged Defendant with simple possession. He noted that the blunt ...

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