Officer Shannon Hester of the Corinth Police Department was driving behind Tameca Drummer’s vehicle when she noticed the vehicle had no license plate. Hester followed the vehicle for approximately one mile, and she observed Drummer’s vehicle weaving from the outside of her lane across the centerlines.
Hester performed a traffic stop. As she was approaching the car, she noticed a temporary tag lying on the back dash. Hester asked Drummer for her driver’s license and proof of insurance. Drummer’s driver’s license was suspended. Hester placed Drummer under arrest for driving with a suspended driver’s license. Hester testified that she asked for permission to search the vehicle, and Drummer consented.
Officer Jerry Mayhall assisted Hester with the search. Hester found cocaine in the driver’s door, and Mayhall found marijuana in the steering column.
Detective Ben Caldwell testified that he questioned Drummer about the marijuana. According to Caldwell, Drummer stated that she was in Corinth to meet Ernest Banks, a man with whom she was dating in exchange for money, and when he did not pay her, she took the marijuana from him and hid it under the dash of the car.
Contrary to Caldwell’s testimony, Drummer testified at trial that Banks had put the marijuana in her car without her knowledge. Drummer testified that she was neither asked nor did she consent to a search of her vehicle. She further testified that the police officers who testified otherwise were not being truthful. Mayhall testified in rebuttal that he heard Drummer consent to the search.
She was convicted of possession of marijuana and sentenced to life as a habitual offender. On appeal, she argued there was no probable cause for the stop. MCOA affirmed.
The careless driving statute, Mississippi Code Annotated section 63-3-1213 (Rev. 2004), states in part: Any person who drives any vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corner, traffic and use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances is guilty of careless driving. Careless driving shall be considered a lesser offense than reckless driving.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Whren v. U.S., 517 U.S. 806 (1996), stated that as a general rule, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred.
In Henderson, this court found that probable cause existed for a traffic stop where the driver “almost hit a curb, stopped at a stop sign, then proceeded through the intersection and almost hit another curb.” The presence or absence of traffic is not controlling. Carelessness is a matter of reasonable interpretation, based on a wide range of factors.
In our case, Drummer asserts that Hester’s report stated that she merely touched the center line, but she did not cross it. Drummer also asserts that she came to a complete stop at a stop sign, which showed that she was able to follow traffic rules.
Hester testified that she observed Drummer weaving within her lane of traffic and crossing one of the center lines. Her police report stated that Drummer weaved from “right side of her lane to the inside of the yellow lines more than once.” Drummer was driving in a residential area, and Hester testified that she was concerned that if Drummer topped a hill, she could have encountered an oncoming vehicle.
We find that the reasons articulated by Hester were sufficient to find probable cause for a traffic stop based on careless driving. Having found that probable cause existed for the traffic stop, we find that the motion to suppress the evidence found as a result of the traffic stop was properly denied.