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Ray v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

December 31, 2018

ANDRE TREMEL RAY, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County The Honorable Nena James, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan, Chief Appellate Counsel; James M. Causey, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General; Caitlin F. Harper, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Darrell D. Jackson, Faculty Director, Prosecution Assistance Program; Catherine M. Mercer, Student Director.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE[*], FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.

          BOOMGAARDEN, Justice.

         [¶1] Andre Tremel Ray entered a conditional "no contest" plea to felony possession of a controlled substance, reserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Finding no error, we affirm.


         [¶2] Mr. Ray presents one issue for our review: "Did the district court err in denying [the] motion to suppress evidence obtained during an unreasonable search?"


         [¶3] During his patrol of I-80 near Green River, Wyoming, on May 4, 2017, Captain Brett Stokes of the Sweetwater County Sheriff's Department received a REDDI (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately) report of a silver Dodge Charger exceeding the speed limit and passing vehicles on the far-right shoulder. Captain Stokes located the vehicle and paced it going ten mph above the posted speed limit. Deputy Chris Sutton was also in the area and stopped Mr. Ray for speeding after learning about the traffic violation his captain observed. Deputy Sutton approached Mr. Ray's vehicle from the passenger side and informed him of the reason for the stop. Deputy Sutton questioned Mr. Ray about his travel plans and driving pattern based on the REDDI report. Mr. Ray stated he was traveling from Colorado to Utah for a wedding and that he rented the car in Colorado because his was "in the shop" due to vandalism. Mr. Ray denied speeding and driving erratically. Deputy Sutton took Mr. Ray's driver's license and rental car paperwork and walked over to the passenger side of his patrol vehicle where he met with his captain. Deputy Sutton relayed the information provided by Mr. Ray and told Captain Stokes that Mr. Ray had gold teeth, a "wad of cash," a Wyoming driver's license, and a Colorado rental car. Deputy Sutton noted that Mr. Ray had no visible luggage in the back seat despite traveling to Utah for a wedding, although he acknowledged the luggage could be in the trunk. Deputy Sutton informed Captain Stokes that he didn't "smell anything" while speaking with Mr. Ray and the two discussed that a drug detection dog was too far away to get to the scene in a reasonable time.

         [¶4] Meanwhile, Wyoming Highway Trooper Joseph Minick overheard a radio conversation about the stop and arrived on scene to assist out of "curiosity." Trooper Minick discussed the stop with Captain Stokes while Deputy Sutton entered his vehicle to run Mr. Ray's driver's license and issue a citation. Trooper Minick then briefly discussed the stop with Deputy Sutton through the passenger window of the patrol vehicle. Deputy Sutton informed Trooper Minick of the cash he observed, clarified the money was in Mr. Ray's wallet and that he did not see the denomination of the bills, and handed Trooper Minick Mr. Ray's driver's license for his review. On Trooper Minick's request, Deputy Sutton and Captain Stokes permitted him to question Mr. Ray while Deputy Sutton continued with the citation paperwork.

         [¶5] Trooper Minick approached Mr. Ray's vehicle on the passenger side, introduced himself, and informed Mr. Ray that he did not have to answer any questions. Trooper Minick inquired about Mr. Ray's travel plans and received the same information provided to Deputy Sutton. Due to traffic noise, Trooper Minick could not hear Mr. Ray's responses and requested that he close the driver's side window. Trooper Minick inquired further about the rental car because Mr. Ray was smoking a cigarette, which Trooper Minick believed to be prohibited by the rental agreement. While talking to Mr. Ray about the rental car, Trooper Minick leaned his head into the vehicle, told Mr. Ray he smelled marijuana, and asked him to exit the vehicle. Mr. Ray complied and Trooper Minick stated he smelled the odor of burnt marijuana. Mr. Ray stated he smoked some marijuana the previous night while in Colorado, and that there might be evidence of the same in an ash tray in the vehicle.

         [¶6] Trooper Minick placed Mr. Ray in the back of Deputy Sutton's patrol vehicle and informed him he was in investigative detention. Deputy Sutton searched Mr. Ray's vehicle and found an ash tray with a lid. Deputy Sutton observed traces of burnt marijuana under the lid and on the inside of the ash tray, which tested presumptive positive for marijuana. Mr. Ray was placed under arrest, and, after a further search, officers discovered marijuana and cocaine in a suitcase in the trunk.

         [¶7] The State charged Mr. Ray with two counts: possession of cocaine (a felony) and possession of marijuana (a misdemeanor). Mr. Ray moved to suppress evidence, arguing the officers lacked probable cause to search his vehicle because Captain Stokes did not observe any erratic driving, only speeding; that it is not unlawful to have a wad of cash or gold teeth; and, the color of Mr. Ray's skin did not provide probable cause to search his vehicle. Mr. Ray also challenged Trooper Minick's claim he smelled burnt marijuana because Deputy Sutton did not ...

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