In 2007, Officer John Pevey of the Columbus Police Department responded to a call from dispatch informing him that a white male and a white female had just made large purchases of pseudoephedrine at Fred’s Dollar Store in Columbus, Mississippi.
A Fred’s sales clerk told police that the man and woman each had purchased four boxes of pseudoephedrine, for a total of eight boxes. The sales clerk also related to police that the pair had left the store in an older model blue automobile, and that the vehicle was last seen traveling east on the Highway 82 bypass.
Pevey set out to find this car while MBN Agent Eddie Hawkins proceeded to Fred’s Dollar Store to investigate the purchase further. Hawkins learned from the Fred’s sales clerk that the couple had left in an older model blue Mustang with an Alabama tag, and that the individuals had used identification to purchase the pseudoephedrine which identified them as Ivan McClellan and Katina McGee. Hawkins relayed this information to Pevey via radio.
Pevey subsequently located the Mustang at Dutch Village Family Pharmacy and followed them after they left and proceeded to Dollar General Store, where the suspects learned the store did not carry pseudoephedrine products.
As Pevey continued to follow the suspects, Hawkins went into the Dutch Village Family Pharmacy and learned that the suspects had purchased more pseudoephedrine. Again, Hawkins relayed this information to Pevey via radio.
Pevey then stopped the vehicle and got consent to search. Pevey discovered a total of 308 pseudoephedrine pills, three cans of starter fluid, three cans of granular drain opener, a pack of unopened lithium batteries, and a plastic bag with Fred’s Dollar Store insignia on it. Also found were a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and another box of pseudoephedrine pills in a suitcase inside the car.
McClellan was convicted of possessing two methamphetamine precursors and possessing 250 dosage units of pseudoephedrine and sentenced to 30 years. On appeal, he argued there was no reasonable suspicion for the stop and that he did not have possession of the items. MSC affirmed.
A. Stop of car
In Williamson, we said that a police officer may conduct an investigatory stop if he or she has reasonable suspicion, grounded in specific and articulable facts, that a person was involved in or is wanted in connection with a completed felony or some objective manifestation that the person stopped is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity.
Reasonable suspicion may be based on the officer’s personal observations or an informant’s tip, as long as the tip bears an indicium of reliability.
In Williamson, police received information from pharmacy employees that two white males had purchased large quantities of pseudoephedrine from two different stores. One of the tipsters told police that the two white men had left the store in a white van, and he gave police the license plate number and the direction in which he had seen the van traveling.
A police officer located the van and followed it to a Fred’s Dollar Store, where he obtained consent to search the vehicle. In the Williamson case, this court concluded that the information provided by the pharmacy employee, the color of the van, the number and race of the occupants, the license plate number and the direction of travel, including the name of the street, provided a sufficient basis for the officer’s reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle.
While in this case the initial description may have been somewhat vague, police were able to accumulate many more details about the individuals, their pseudoephedrine purchases, and the vehicle in which they were traveling before officers made the investigatory stop.
Hawkins investigated at both Fred’s Dollar Store and Dollar General Store soon after the suspects had driven away from each. Hawkins relayed to Pevey the information he had obtained, and Pevey subsequently made the investigatory stop after reasoning that he had enough information, or probable cause, to do so. Thus, the trial court did not err in denying McClellan’s motion to suppress the fruits of the vehicle search.
B. Constructive possession
Although all of the materials were found in McClellan’s car, he argues that the only substance within his control was the 212 dosage units of pseudoephedrine. The rubbing alcohol and 96 dosage units of pseudoephedrine were found in McGee’s luggage, and the cans of starter fluid and granular drain opener were found in the back seat. McClellan also points out that only McGee purchased pseudoephedrine at the Dutch Village store.
We said in Wall that it is quite possible to have joint constructive possession. McClellan was the operator of the vehicle in which the contraband was found, and there was nothing to rebut the presumption that he was in constructive possession of the contents of the vehicle.
Also, in his confession, he admitted to police that McGee was helping him acquire the ingredients for methamphetamine and that the two of them intended to manufacture and use the finished product.