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State v. Prinkleton

Supreme Court of Maine

January 25, 2018


          Argued: December 14, 2017

          Luann L. Calcagni, Esq. (orally), Augusta, for appellant Arder Prinkleton

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Katie Sibley, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine


          ALEXANDER, J.

         [¶1] Arder Prinkleton appeals from the judgment of the Unified Criminal Docket (Franklin County, Mullen, /.) finding him guilty of unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § llO3(l-A)(A) (2017), and ordering a criminal forfeiture, 15 M.R.S. § 5826 (2017), following a conditional guilty plea, see M.R.U. Crim. P. 11(a)(2). On appeal, Prinkleton argues that the motion court [Stokes, /.) erred by applying the inevitable discovery doctrine to deny his motion to suppress evidence of drugs found on his person before the issuance of a search warrant. We affirm the judgment.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶2] In its order denying the motion to suppress, the court found the following facts, which are supported by the record and are viewed in the light most favorable to the motion court's judgment. See State v. Gerry, 2016 ME 163, ¶ 2, 150 A.3d 810.

         [¶3] On March 15, 2016, an agent of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) spoke to an anonymous caller who provided information concerning a man from New York known as "H" who allegedly sold large quantities of cocaine out of the apartment of Crystal Taylor located at a specific address in Wilton. The caller stated that "H" comes to Wilton for a few weeks at a time and sells half gram quantities of cocaine for $100. The caller reported that a friend had purchased cocaine from "H" the previous weekend.

         [¶4] The next day, law enforcement officers from the MDEA and the Wilton Police Department placed Taylor's apartment under surveillance. During the surveillance, officers saw a man leave the apartment and get into a car. A Wilton police officer stopped the car for speeding approximately one and a half miles away.

         [¶5] One MDEA agent went to the location of the vehicle stop while another officer continued to watch Taylor's apartment from outside the residence. The MDEA agent spoke with the operator of the vehicle. The vehicle operator consented to a search of his vehicle, which resulted in the discovery of two small plastic bags inside a CD holder located in the glove box. The contents of the bags field-tested positive for cocaine.

         [¶6] The vehicle operator admitted that he was coming from Taylor's apartment. He told the officers that he communicates with Taylor by texting the message: "Are you playing cards?" If Taylor responds affirmatively, then it means that "they" have "product." The vehicle operator stated that, earlier that day, he entered the apartment and went to the kitchen, where he saw a man with whom he was familiar sitting at a table on which there were two bags of cocaine. The vehicle operator placed $100 on the table, at which point Taylor nodded. The vehicle operator then took the cocaine and left the apartment. He told the officers that he had purchased cocaine at Taylor's apartment on previous occasions and that he had seen the same man on two of those occasions. The vehicle operator insisted that he did not know the man's name.

         [¶7] During the vehicle stop, the officers became concerned that Taylor and "H" could be alerted to their investigation because the stop was occurring on a busy road in a small town and because the vehicle operator's cell phone was continuously ringing while the officers were speaking with him. The officers had taken the phone from the vehicle operator and did not allow him to answer it. After discussing the situation with their supervisors and an assistant attorney general, the officers decided to secure Taylor's apartment before applying for a search warrant.

         [¶8] An MDEA agent and another officer travelled to Taylor's apartment and knocked on the door. When Taylor opened the door, the officers identified themselves and asked if anyone else was inside. Taylor pointed and said "him." The officers informed Taylor that they were going to "secure" the apartment.

         [¶9] The MDEA agent entered the apartment and walked into the kitchen, where he saw a man, later identified as Prinkleton, sitting at the table. The agent told the man that he needed to do a "pat down" of him for officer safety purposes. The man was "very cooperative" and allowed the agent to proceed. During the pat down, the agent felt a large ball in one of the man's pockets. The agent believed, based on his training and experience, that the object was a drug and removed it from the man's pocket. ...

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