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2011-UP-201 - State v. Smith

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

The State, Respondent,

v.

Travis Smith, Appellant.


Appeal From Spartanburg County
J. Derham Cole, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2011-UP-201   
Submitted May 1, 2011 – Filed May 3, 2011


AFFIRMED


Appellate Defender Kathrine H. Hudgins, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan M. Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, and Assistant Attorney General Deborah R.J. Shupe, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Barry Barnette, of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: Travis Smith appeals his conviction for trafficking in cocaine, arguing the circuit court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence of cocaine as fruit of an illegal search.  He contends the deputy lacked a reasonable suspicion he was armed when the deputy asked him to step out of a vehicle for a pat-down search.  We affirm.[1]

"On appeals from a motion to suppress based on Fourth Amendment grounds, [an appellate court] applies a deferential standard of review and will reverse if there is clear error."  State v. Tindall, 388 S.C. 518, 521, 698 S.E.2d 203, 205 (2010).  An appellate court, however, may review the record to "determine whether the [circuit court's] decision is supported by the evidence."  Id.  Once a vehicle is lawfully stopped, officers "may order passengers to get out of the car pending completion of the stop."  Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 414-15 (1997) (reasoning that "danger to an officer from a traffic stop is likely to be greater when there are passengers in addition to the driver of a stopped car").  Moreover, the Fourth Amendment "permit[s] a reasonable search for weapons for the protection of the police officer, where he has reason to believe that he is dealing with an armed and dangerous individual, regardless of whether he has probable cause to arrest the individual for a crime."  Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27 (1968).  The circuit court must decide "whether a reasonably prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that others was in danger."  Id.

In affirming the circuit court, we rely on State v. Smith, 329 S.C. 550, 553-54, 495 S.E.2d 798, 800 (Ct. App. 1998), in which this court upheld the circuit court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence when an officer ordered a driver out of the car and frisked him because he "was fidgeting and looking around on the inside like looking for a weapon."  The officer in Smith testified he "thought for officer safety, better to bring him out of the vehicle to keep him away from any weapons opportunity." Id. at 554, 495 S.E.2d at 800.  Here, given the circumstances, the deputy's concern for his safety was reasonable.  Smith presented the deputy with a hotel key card instead of his identification.  Moreover, Smith appeared to the deputy as if he was trying to conceal something in his baggy clothing while he searched for his identification.  The deputy testified he was concerned Smith had a gun.  We find no clear error in the circuit court's ruling that the pat-down search was reasonable and refusal to suppress the cocaine evidence that was subsequently abandoned by Smith.  Accordingly, the decision of the circuit court is

AFFIRMED.

HUFF, WILLIAMS, and THOMAS, JJ., concur. 


[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.