Search incident to arrest began before officer orally advised subject they were under arrest


Agent Gary Smith of the DeSoto County Metro Narcotics Task Force testified that he paid Ravi Goin, a confidential informant, to purchase methamphetamine from Richard Craig. Smith stated that he had used Goin as an informant in several other cases which resulted in ten to twenty arrests.

Goin testified that on March 26, 1997, the night before the buy, he asked Craig to sell him some methamphetamine. Craig agreed to secure the substance. Both Smith and Goin testified that on March 27, 1997, four calls were made from the Citgo station to Craig’s pager. Goin made two calls from a pay phone, and the other two calls were made from a cellular phone.

Three of the four calls were returned. After the last phone call, Goin told Smith that Craig was en route to pick up and bring the substance to the Citgo Station. The Citgo station is located in the northwest corner of Highway 51 and Nail Road. Goin also gave Smith a description of the vehicle and the route Craig would take to bring the substance. Smith testified to overhearing Goin’s part of the conversation with Craig.

According to Goin and the agents, Craig drove to the parking lot of the Fast Lane, which is in the southwest corner of Highway 51 and Nail Road, and went inside. Fast Lane is located across the street from the Citgo. Goin testified that he alerted the officers that Craig was at Fast Lane. Craig came out of the store, paused for a few moments, looked around and turned to get into his vehicle.

Before he could get into his car and before any transaction commenced, the agents approached Craig. Agent Gary Carmon testified that he questioned Craig about having the substance on him, to which Craig denied. Carmon conducted a pat-down search and found the substance, and Craig volunteered a smaller pouch. Craig was then arrested. The defense stipulated to the fact that the substance tested by the crime lab was crystal methamphetamine.

Craig was convicted of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and sentenced to 15 years. On appeal, he argued the officer’s search of him was illegal. MCOA affirmed.


In order to make a felony arrest without a warrant, the officer must have probable cause to believe that 1) a felony has been committed and 2) the suspect to be arrested committed the felony. Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.

Mississippi case law allows the officer’s reasonably trustworthy information to be based on information provided by reliable informants. Under these circumstances, the court employs the totality of the circumstances approach to determine probable cause.

In this case, the police officers based their actions on information provided by an informant that had given them reliable information in the past. They also witnessed several phone calls made by the informant to Craig setting up the buy. After the conversation with Craig, the informant gave a description of the car and told the police officers the direction from which Craig would come.

Even though Craig did not come to the designated buy area, the officers found the designated substance on Craig’s person. Based on the totality of the circumstances, the trial judge was correct in finding probable cause to believe that a felony was being committed by Craig, to wit possession of methamphetamine.

Possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute is a felony. See Miss. Code. Ann. § 41-29-139 (Rev. 1993). Additionally, even though the search occurred prior to the announcement by the officer that Craig was under arrest, the arrest had actually occurred because an arrest begins when an officer begins his pursuit to make the arrest. See MSC Haddox v State, 636 So. 2d 1229 (Miss. 1994). Under these circumstances, we find that the search was incident to a lawful arrest and was therefore valid.

Craig contends that Terry v. State, 252 Miss. 479 (Miss. 1965), is controlling in the case at bar. We disagree. In Terry, the police officers arrested the suspect based on an anonymous tip. The police officer based his decision solely on the informant’s information. The court held that the officer’s sole reliance on information provided by an informant was not enough to support probable cause.

In our case, the informant was not anonymous, and the agents did not base their entire decision on information provided by the informant. They based their decision, not only on information provided by the informant, but also on their own observations and experiences. They heard parts of conversations between Goin and Craig which indicated a purchase was arranged, and they had confirmation from Goin that the purchased had been arranged. We find no merit in this argument.