Heard: June 24, 2014.
Appeal from York County. The Honorable John C. Hayes, III, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2011-203786.
Johnny Gardner, of Johnny Gardner Law Group, P.A., of Conway, for Petitioner.
Attorney General Alan M. Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, Assistant Attorney General Mark R. Farthing, all of Columbia, and Kevin S. Brackett, of York, for Respondent.
JUSTICE HEARN. TOAL, C.J., and KITTREDGE, J., concur. PLEICONES, J., dissenting in a separate opinion in which BEATTY, J., concurs.
[411 S.C. 575] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
Kenneth Darrell Morris, II challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress ecstasy and marijuana discovered during a traffic stop, arguing they were obtained as the fruits of an illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. We disagree, finding the officers had both reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of the entire vehicle. Accordingly, we affirm.
Morris was driving on Interstate 77 through York County with Brandon Nichols in a rental vehicle. Officer L.T. Vinesett, Jr. and Constable W.E. Scott observed Morris commit a traffic violation by following a truck too closely. The officers followed Morris as he exited the interstate and initiated a traffic stop as he pulled into a gas station.
Vinesett approached the passenger side of the vehicle and requested that Morris produce his driver's license and registration. Vinesett then asked Morris to exit the vehicle and accompany him to the police cruiser. As Vinesett ran Morris's license, he asked Morris several questions about where the two men were traveling from and what they did there. Morris told Vinesett they went " to see some girls" in Atlanta and were on their way back to North Carolina. Vinesett returned to the rental vehicle and spoke briefly with Nichols, who stated he and Morris were returning from Atlanta after going to see a cousin play basketball.
Vinesett radioed Officer Gibson of the York County Police Department for a K-9 unit. While waiting for the K-9 unit to arrive, Scott conducted a consensual search of Morris, which yielded no contraband. After stating repeatedly that he had to use the restroom, Morris was escorted to the restroom by Scott.
Nichols also asked to use the restroom. He exited the vehicle and consented to a search of his person by Vinesett, [411 S.C. 576] which yielded no contraband. Vinesett told Nichols he would have to wait to use the restroom until Morris returned. Vinesett asked Nichols if he smoked marijuana earlier in the day and said he swore he smelled marijuana when Nichols exited the vehicle. Nichols stated the smell was from ...