Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs May 10, 2017.
from the Circuit Court for Rutherford County No. M-75150
Royce Taylor, Judge.
Defendant, Thomas Pleas Watts, pleaded guilty in the
Rutherford County Circuit Court to possession of marijuana
and possession of drug paraphernalia. See T.C.A.
§§ 39-17-418 (2010) (amended 2014, 2016)
(misdemeanor possession of marijuana), 39-17-425 (2014)
(misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia). Pursuant to
the plea agreement, the trial court granted the Defendant
judicial diversion for eleven months and twenty-nine days. On
appeal, the Defendant presents certified questions of law
regarding the trial court's denying his motion to
suppress. We dismiss the appeal.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed
Gregory M. Reed, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Thomas Pleas Watts.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Jennings H.
Jones, District Attorney General; and John Zimmerman,
Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State
H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which Norma McGee Ogle and Alan E. Glenn, JJ. joined.
H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE.
case relates to a traffic stop for a broken tail light,
during which the police officer ordered the Defendant to step
out of his car. In response to questioning, the Defendant
stated that he possessed a "bag of weed" and
produced a small bag of marijuana and a pipe. The Defendant
filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the
stop, alleging that his incriminating statements were made
during a custodial interrogation and without benefit of
having received Miranda warnings.
trial court denied the motion in a written order. The court
found that the arresting officer had probable cause to stop
the Defendant because the Defendant's brake light did not
function, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section
55-9-402. The court also found that the Defendant was not in
custody at the time of the stop and that "persons
temporarily detained pursuant to ordinary traffic stops are
not 'in custody' for Miranda purposes."
The court found that a reasonable person in the
Defendant's position would not "consider himself
deprived of freedom of movement to a degree associated with a
the trial court denied the motion to suppress, the Defendant
pleaded guilty to both counts, and pursuant to his plea
agreement he reserved two certified questions for appeal:
a. Whether the Trial Court erred in its finding that the
defendant was not seized or in custody during his detention
so as to afford him of his rights under the Fifth Amendment
to the Constitution of the United States and Article I,
Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution, thereby denying the
defendant's motion to suppress statements and actions in
response to the questions of Officer Derrick Bush of the
Murfreesboro Police Department asked during a traffic stop
for an inoperable brake light on the defendant's car;
said statements and actions providing the state with all
evidence necessary to convict the defendant of the offenses
b. Whether the Court erred in finding that the length of the
detention of defendant by Officer Derrick Bush was
constitutionally valid, thereby denying the defendant's
motion to suppress all evidence of marijuana and drug
paraphernalia at trial and on the basis that even if the
detention was reasonable at the outset, it became
unconstitutionally invalid as the investigation exceeded the
proper parameters in light of the absence of any articulable
facts justifying the detention beyond the time required for
issuing a citation for a traffic offense.
Criminal Procedure Rule 37(b)(2)(A) provides that an appeal
can be taken from a plea of guilty if the Defendant enters
into a plea agreement and explicitly reserves with the
consent of the State and the trial court a certified question
of law that is dispositive of the case. See Tenn. R.
Crim. P. 37(b)(2)(A)(i)-(iv); State v. Armstrong,
126 S.W.3d 908 (Tenn. 2003). However, our examination of the
record reflects that an "Order of Deferral (Judicial
Diversion)" was filed and that the Defendant received
judicial diversion pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated
section 40-34-313 (supp. 2016). This court concluded in
State v. Norris, 47 S.W.3d 457, 461-62 (Tenn. Crim.
App. 2000), that an appeal may not be taken from an order of
judicial diversion because an order of diversion neither
results in a judgment of conviction, nor any ...