Richard H. Corbin II, by counsel J. Mark Sutton, appeals the
Circuit Court of Morgan County's June 28, 2016, order
sentencing him to a term of incarceration of one to five
years for his conviction of failure to update sex offender
registration. The State, by counsel Gordon L. Mowen II, filed
a response and a supplemental appendix. Petitioner filed a
reply. On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court
erred in denying his motion to suppress and his motion to
dismiss the indictment.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under
Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
of 2014, a West Virginia State Trooper observed a red Dodge
Durango heading south on Winchester Grade Road in Morgan
County. The vehicle had a license plate number of 9W9584 and
was registered to Richard Henry Corbin, petitioner's
father. The trooper observed the vehicle pull into a driveway
and immediately turn around to travel on the same road in the
opposite direction. According to the trooper, he believed
this behavior was suspicious and possibly indicated that the
vehicle's occupants were surveying the home to later
burglarize the same. The trooper continued to follow the
vehicle, which pulled into a second driveway. At this point,
the trooper initiated contact with the vehicle's
occupants. The trooper determined that Jessica Evans was
driving the vehicle and petitioner, a registered sex
offender, was a passenger. Ms. Evans explained they were
looking for a lost dog. The trooper eventually cited Ms.
Evans for driving on a suspended license before ending his
encounter with the vehicle's occupants.
the State Police later determined that the vehicle in
question was listed on petitioner's sex offender registry
forms. Per petitioner's forms, the vehicle's license
plate number was 2LH387, not 9W9584. As such,
petitioner's sex offender registry forms did not properly
list the license plate number for the vehicle. As a result,
petitioner was indicted on a charge of failing to properly
update and/or maintain the information on his sex offender
registry forms in September of 2015.
his indictment, petitioner filed a motion to suppress the
evidence that his sex offender registry information was
outdated. According to petitioner, the trooper lacked
probable cause to initiate the traffic stop in question.
Petitioner also filed a motion to dismiss the indictment and
alleged that he could not be guilty of failing to update his
sex offender registry information because he erroneously
listed his father's Durango in the first instance. The
circuit court denied both these motions. In April of 2016,
petitioner entered a plea of no contest to the charge of
failure to update his sex offender registration. Petitioner
reserved the right to appeal the circuit court's denial
of his pre-trial motions. In June of 2016, the circuit court
sentenced petitioner to a term of incarceration of one to
five years but suspended that sentence in favor of a term of
five years of probation. It is from the sentencing order that
We have held as follows:
"In reviewing the findings of fact and conclusions of
law of a circuit court . . ., we apply a three-pronged
standard of review. We review the decision . . . under an
abuse of discretion standard; the underlying facts are
reviewed under a clearly erroneous standard; and questions of
law and interpretations of statutes and rules are subject to
a de novo review." Syllabus Point 1, State
v. Head, 198 W.Va. 298, 480 S.E.2d 507 (1996).
Syl. Pt. 1, in part, State v. Georgius, 225 W.Va.
716, 696 S.E.2d 18 (2010). Further, we have explained as
1."When reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, an
appellate court should construe all facts in the light most
favorable to the State, as it was the prevailing party below.
Because of the highly fact-specific nature of a motion to
suppress, particular deference is given to the findings of
the circuit court because it had the opportunity to observe
the witnesses and to hear testimony on the issues. Therefore,
the circuit court's factual findings are reviewed for
clear error." Syllabus point 1, State v. Lacy,
196 W.Va. 104, 468 S.E.2d 719 (1996).
2. "In contrast to a review of the circuit court's
factual findings, the ultimate determination as to whether a
search or seizure was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment
to the United States Constitution and Section 6 of Article
III of the West Virginia Constitution is a question of law
that is reviewed de novo. Similarly, an appellate
court reviews de novo whether a search warrant was
too broad. Thus, a circuit court's denial of a motion to
suppress evidence will be affirmed unless it is unsupported
by substantial evidence, based on an erroneous interpretation
of the law, or, based on the entire record, it is clear that
a mistake has been made." Syllabus point 2, State v.
Lacy, 196 W.Va. 104, 468 S.E.2d 719 (1996).
Syl. Pts. 1 and 2, State v. Bookheimer, 221 W.Va.
720, 656 S.E.2d 471 (2007).
appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in
denying his motion to suppress evidence of his registration
because the trooper lacked a reasonable articulable suspicion
to initiate the stop. As to traffic stops, we have held that
"[p]olice officers may stop a vehicle to investigate if
they have an articulable[, ] reasonable suspicion that the
vehicle is subject to seizure or a person in the vehicle has
committed, is committing, or is about to commit a
crime." Syl. Pt. 1, in part, State v. Stuart,
192 W.Va. 428, 452 S.E.2d 886 (1994). Petitioner's
argument on appeal concerning the trooper's alleged lack
of a reasonable articulable suspicion to initiate the traffic
stop in question simply ignores the evidence below. During
the suppression hearing, the trooper specifically testified
that he believed the vehicle pulling into two separate
driveways in a location far from the registered owner's
own home was "highly suspicious" and was consistent
with someone "casing a home for a burglary." That
is to say, the trooper in question had a reasonable
articulable suspicion that a person in the vehicle was
committing or about to commit a crime. As the circuit court
noted, the vehicle in question was already stopped in a
driveway when the trooper approached in furtherance of
investigating the vehicle's occupants' actions.
Because we find that the trooper in question had a reasonable
articulable suspicion to initiate the stop in question, we
find no error in the circuit court denying petitioner's
motion to suppress.
the Court finds no merit to petitioner's argument that
the circuit court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the
indictment. Regarding our review of a ...