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Walgreen’s clerk tips off police to large pseudoephedrine purchase

Facts

In 2001, a Walgreens clerk called officer Brian Bradley to report that two white males had just purchased a quantity of pseudoephedrine, and were leaving the parking lot in a silver Cadillac with Arkansas license plates, traveling westbound on Goodman Road from Highway 51. Bradley reported the call to dispatch, who reported it to on-duty officers.

Patrol Sergeant Kevin Thomas heard the call and immediately proceeded to Goodman Road, where he spotted the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. While talking with the driver of the Cadillac, Thomas noticed a Walgreens bag on the back seat containing two boxes of ephedrine. Thomas requested, and received, permission to search the vehicle, in which he found two different bags of ephedrine, one from Walgreens and the other from Seessels, together containing 864 unit dosages (pills) of ephedrine. One of the bags was located in the trunk.

Bradley then arrived on the scene and questioned Christopher Burchfield, who stated that he and his companion were in the area buying pseudoephedrine, or ephedrine, for the purpose of reselling it. Burchfield was arrested and indicted for possession of 250 dosage units of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, with knowledge that it would be used to manufacture a controlled substance.

He was convicted of possession of more than 250 dosage units of ephedrine and sentenced to five years in jail. On appeal, he argued the police lacked probable cause to the make the stop and search the vehicle. MSC affirms.

Analysis

We looked at this precise question recently in Walker and said that the constitutional requirements for an investigative stop and detention are less stringent than those for an arrest. An investigative stop of a suspect may be made so long as an officer has a reasonable suspicion grounded in specific and articulable facts, that a person he encounters was involved in or is wanted in connection with a felony.

Put another way, the investigative stop exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement allows a police officer to conduct a brief investigative stop if the officer had a reasonable suspicion, based upon specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, result in the conclusion that criminal behavior has occurred or is imminent.

We also faced almost identical facts in Williamson wherein we stated that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that there are situations in which an anonymous tip, suitably corroborated, exhibits sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop.

This court has also held in Floyd that reasonable cause for an investigatory stop may be based on an officer’s personal observation or on an informant’s tip if it bears indicia of reliability. Reasonable suspicion is dependent upon the content of the information possessed by the detaining officer as well as its degree of reliability. Both factors — quantity and quality — are considered in the totality of the circumstances.

In the case before us today, the police were informed by a Walgreens clerk that two white males in a Cadillac with Arkansas license plates had each purchased a quantity of pills containing pseudoephedrine and were leaving the parking lot, westbound on Goodman Road from Highway 51.

Within minutes, Officer Thomas spotted two white males in a Cadillac with Arkansas license plates, on Goodman Road. Under these circumstances, we find (as we did in Walker and Williamson) that Thomas had a reasonable suspicion which justified an investigatory stop. After the stop, Thomas personally observed on the back seat a sack containing packages of pills containing pseudoephedrine.

He then obtained permission for the search which yielded the evidence used against Burchfield. The conduct of the Horn Lake police was entirely appropriate and constitutional, and this assignment of error is, therefore, without merit.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO21041.pdf