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