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State v. Johnson

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

June 30, 2014

The State, Respondent,
v.
Jason Alan Johnson, Appellant

Heard: March 6, 2014.

Page 37

Appeal From York County. Appellate Case No. 2012-207549. Lee S. Alford, Circuit Court Judge.

Appellate Defender David Alexander, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General William M. Blitch, Jr., of Columbia, for Respondent.

THOMAS, J. HUFF and PIEPER, JJ., concur. THOMAS, J.

OPINION

Page 38

[410 S.C. 13] THOMAS, J.

Jason Alan Johnson appeals his conviction for trafficking methamphetamine in an amount of twenty-eight grams or more, but less than one hundred grams. Johnson argues the circuit court erred in (1) denying his motion to suppress evidence stemming from a warrant he alleges was obtained without probable cause after an illegal entry and warrantless search, and (2) ruling as a matter of law that all of the mixture that contained methamphetamine would count towards its weight, admitting such evidence, and ordering defense counsel not to argue that fact to the jury, which Johnson contends violated statutory intent and the Sixth Amendment. We affirm.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 27, 2011, an arrest warrant was issued for Brandi Quinn for malicious injury to property. That morning, York County Sheriff's Deputy John Stagner located Quinn's car at the Best Way Inn in Rock Hill. Deputy Stagner kept [410 S.C. 14] watch on Quinn's car and called for backup, after which Deputies Rachel Gladden and Tony Bolin arrived at the hotel. The deputies verified with hotel management which room Quinn was staying in and learned that she had checked into the hotel the previous day. Before approaching Quinn's room, Deputy Gladden informed the other deputies that there would probably be drugs in the room.[1] The deputies then approached Quinn's room and knocked. Quinn did not immediately come to the door; instead, the deputies heard movement and whispering within the room. After a few minutes, Quinn partially opened the door but remained largely concealed behind it, which caused the deputies to worry that Quinn was concealing something or someone behind the door.

Quinn backed further into the room and the deputies entered the room to execute the arrest warrant. Upon entering the room, the deputies observed two persons under the covers of the beds, possibly trying to hide. The deputies ordered the two individuals under the bed covers to show their hands. One individual, Corey Catoe, complied with the deputies' orders and showed his hands, while the other individual, Johnson, showed his hands twice but put them back under

Page 39

covers. The deputies testified they became increasingly concerned for their safety because of the possibility Johnson was concealing a weapon. At that point, the deputies detained Catoe and Johnson and observed gang-related tattoos on Johnson.

After detaining Catoe and Johnson, Deputies Bolin and Stagner performed a protective sweep of the hotel room, which included the bathroom and under the beds. The deputies testified the purpose of the protective sweep was to look for weapons or other individuals in the room out of concern for officer safety. During the protective sweep of the room, Deputies Bolin and Stagner observed computer equipment throughout the room, much of it disassembled.[2] The deputies [410 S.C. 15] also observed syringes, razor blades, a white ash substance on the floor, and aluminum foil consistent with drug packaging. Deputy Stagner testified he observed a digital scale during the protective sweep. According to Deputy Stagner, the deputies did not open, move, or manipulate anything during the protective sweep. Quinn's arrest, the detention of Catoe and Johnson, and the protective sweep all occurred in a short amount of time. Deputy Stagner testified these events happened simultaneously.

Deputy Gladden called another deputy in order to obtain a search warrant from a magistrate, and the procured search warrant stated the following reason for searching the hotel room:

Deputies arrested a female suspect from this room on a warrant for malicious injury to property. While deputies were in the room, deputies observed numerous laptop computers and electronic equipment, two unused capped syringes, a package of razor blades, and multiple small tin foil packages consistent with that of drug packaging. The female suspect taken into custody also has a prior drug related conviction.

It took approximately one hour for the search warrant to arrive at the scene, and during that time the deputies remained at the room but did not fully search it. After the warrant arrived, law enforcement found a bottle containing a mixture of liquid and methamphetamine. The mixture within the bottle was being processed in the " Shake and Bake" method of methamphetamine production, under which some of the materials within the bottle are strained off during the production process. Investigator Nick Schifferle testified a reaction within the bottle had already produced methamphetamine; however, further steps were needed to create usable methamphetamine. According to Schifferle, ...


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