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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Deputy Bailey, a Young County narcotics task force officer, was called to a house to investigate a suspected drug lab. Because Hector Castro was the primary suspect, Bailey asked Olney police officers to be on the lookout for Castro. An Olney police officer called Bailey and told him that Castro was a passenger in a car that had been pulled over. Bailey went to the scene of the traffic stop and was informed that the driver had been pulled over for failure to signal a lane change. Castro was in the backseat of the car, crouched down with a jacket over his head. Officers observed, on the front floorboard of the car, a black bag that had been seen earlier at the suspected drug lab. Bailey searched the bag and found narcotics. The officers then arrested Castro. Castro filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in the car, alleging that the initial traffic stop was unlawful. At the suppression hearing, Bailey was the only witness. Bailey testified that he did not observe Castro fail to signal and also agreed with a statement posed by the defense attorney that “not every failure to signal a lane change would result in probable cause to arrest somebody.” The trial court did not file findings of fact or make an explicit ruling. However, the court clearly denied the suppression motion, stating to Castro at his plea hearing, “I’m relatively sure that you’re going to appeal the Court’s ruling on the Motion to Suppress, so for purposes of the record, you do have the Court’s consent to appeal that decision.” Castro appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress. The 2nd Court of Appeals reviewed de novo whether the search was reasonable, giving deference to the trial court’s implicit findings of fact supported by the record. The 2nd Court pointed out that the officer who observed the traffic violation did not testify and Bailey’s testimony did not include any specific details regarding the stop. The 2nd Court presumed that the traffic violation about which Bailey testified was either a failure to signal when changing lanes or a failure to signal within one hundred feet of turning. The 2nd Court determined that the record did not contain sufficient objective facts to support a finding of reasonable suspicion. Moreover, the 2nd Court held that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to suppress and reversed the decision of the trial court. HOLDING:The CCA reversed the judgment of the 2nd Court. Reasonable suspicion exists, the CCA stated, if the officer has specific, articulable facts that, when combined with rational inferences from those facts, would lead him to reasonably conclude that a particular person actually is, has been or soon will be engaged in criminal activity. A reasonable-suspicion determination, the CCA stated, is made by considering the totality of the circumstances, giving almost total deference to the trial court’s determination of historical facts and reviewing de novo the trial court’s application of the law to facts not turning on credibility and demeanor. Because the trial court did not make explicit findings of fact in this case, the CCA reviewed the evidence in a light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling and assumed that the trial court made implicit findings of fact supported by the record. The only two possibilities in this case, the CCA stated, are either the trial judge believed Bailey’s testimony that another officer observed the driver change lanes without signaling, or the trial judge did not believe that the driver was observed changing lanes without signaling. Based on the denial of the motion to suppress the evidence, the CCA stated that it was clear that the trial judge believed the testimony presented. The trial judge was in the best position to observe the credibility and demeanor of the witness, and it was not unreasonable for the trial judge to credit Bailey’s testimony and conclude that the driver was stopped for a traffic violation. The 2nd Court stated that the officer’s cursory testimony reflected that the alleged traffic violation could be either failure to signal within 100 feet of turning or failure to signal a lane change. But the CCA found that the denial of the motion to suppress would indicate that the trial court believed that the officer gave sufficient information that the driver failed to signal a lane change. In sum, the trial court chose to believe Bailey’s testimony. The CCA held that the 2nd Court erred in failing to defer to the trial court’s reasonable ruling. OPINION:Meyers, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous court.

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