THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND, Margaret P.
Spencer, Judge Designate 
L. Faulkner, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.
Rosemary V. Bourne, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark
R. Herring, Attorney General; David M. Uberman, Assistant
Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Chief Judge Decker, Judges Petty and Huff Argued at
GRAFF DECKER, CHIEF JUDGE
Leeshun Williams appeals his convictions for receiving a
stolen firearm and possession of marijuana, subsequent
offense, in violation of Code §§ 18.2-108.1 and
-250.1. He argues that the trial court erred by denying his
motion to suppress. He also contends that the evidence was
insufficient to support the firearm conviction. Last, he
argues that the trial court erroneously admitted evidence
regarding a marijuana field test. For the reasons that
follow, we affirm the conviction for receiving a stolen
firearm, but we reverse the conviction for possession of
marijuana and remand for a new trial on that offense should
the Commonwealth be so advised.
November 19, 2016, around 8:30 p.m., Sergeant Jonathan
Nathanson, with the City of Richmond Police Department,
conducted a traffic stop of the appellant's vehicle. He
stopped the car after seeing it traveling faster than the
posted speed limit and swerving "in and out of the
the encounter, the sergeant asked the appellant whether he
had any firearms in the car. The appellant replied that he
had a concealed weapons permit. Sergeant Nathanson asked at
least four times where the firearm was located. Each time,
the appellant responded vaguely that it was concealed. As
they conversed, a large unrestrained dog "rov[ed] the
sergeant returned to his police car to write two summonses.
It took him approximately sixteen to eighteen minutes to
complete them. While he was processing the
summonses, he called for assistance, and two other police
officers responded to his location. One of the responding
officers recognized the appellant from a previous
"assault issue" and told Nathanson that the
appellant had "some type of firearms violation
Nathanson went back to the appellant's car and asked him
to get out of the vehicle. The reason for the request was to
avoid the dog in the car and to observe the appellant's
motor skills. After Nathanson repeated the request multiple
times, the appellant complied. As soon as he got out of the
car, Sergeant Nathanson saw a handgun inside the
appellant's open jacket. The gun was "one of the
bigger revolvers [Nathanson had] ever seen."
Nathanson placed the appellant in investigative detention.
The appellant said that the gun belonged to him. The sergeant
seized it for safety purposes.
moments of seizing the firearm, Sergeant Nathanson noticed
the odor of unburned marijuana coming from the appellant. He
asked the appellant whether he had marijuana, and the
appellant said that he did not. The sergeant found a small
bag of "green leaf like substance" on the
appellant's person that he believed to be marijuana.
ran a search in the state firearms database for the gun's
serial number. In the course of doing so, he learned that it
had been stolen from an individual's home on July 8,
2015. When Nathanson informed the appellant that the gun was
stolen, the appellant did not seem surprised, yet he said
that he did not know that it was stolen. Nathanson asked
where he had gotten the gun, and all the appellant would say
was that he had bought it from "a person." In
addition, when Nathanson told the appellant that he was under
arrest, the appellant said that the case "would get lost
in court, and that he had been stopped for a stolen firearm
before and [had] not [been] arrested at that time."
conducted a field test on the leafy material to determine
whether it was marijuana. The material tested positive for
THC, an ingredient in marijuana. At trial, the appellant
objected to the admission of the result of the field test,
but the trial court overruled the objection.
Nathanson described the circumstances surrounding the stop
itself. According to him, the encounter lasted "no
longer than what it took . . . to get all the documentation
together." He additionally stated that "run[ning]
the serial number" on the gun took him only a very short
time, less than thirty seconds. He explained that the traffic
stop may have taken ten minutes longer than normal because he
had to "deal with a dog . . . [and a] firearm." He
estimated that the entire encounter lasted about thirty
trial, the appellant filed a motion to suppress the evidence
obtained from the search of his person and the firearm. After
hearing argument and testimony, the trial court denied the
appellant was tried before a jury. After the close of the
Commonwealth's evidence, the appellant made a motion to
strike the charge of receiving a stolen firearm. He argued,
in pertinent part, that the Commonwealth failed to prove that
he knew that the gun was stolen. The trial court denied the
motion to strike.
jury found the appellant guilty of receiving a stolen firearm
and possession of marijuana, subsequent offense. He was
sentenced to one year of incarceration for the firearm
conviction and was fined as a result of the marijuana
appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his
motion to suppress. He also contends that the evidence was
insufficient to prove that he knew that the firearm in his
possession was stolen. Finally, the appellant suggests that
it was error for the court to admit the result of the
marijuana field test into evidence.
Motion to Suppress
regarding appellate review of a trial court's decision on
a motion to suppress is well settled. The appellant bears the
burden of establishing that reversible error occurred.
Glenn v. Commonwealth, 275 Va. 123, 130 (2008). At
this juncture, the Court considers the evidence in the light
most favorable to the Commonwealth and affords it the benefit
of all inferences fairly deducible from that evidence.
Hill v. Commonwealth, 297 Va. 804, 808 (2019).
Moreover, our review includes evidence presented at both the
suppression hearing and the trial. Id.
Court is "bound by the trial court's findings of
historical fact unless plainly wrong or without evidence to
support them." Matthews v. Commonwealth, 65
Va.App. 334, 341 (2015) (quoting McGee v.
Commonwealth, 25 Va.App. 193, 198 (1997) (en
banc)). "This standard [also] requires us 'to
give due weight to inferences drawn from those facts by
resident judges and local law enforcement
officers.'" Commonwealth v. White, 293 Va.
411, 414 (2017) (quoting Evans v. Commonwealth, 290
Va. 277, 280 (2015)). The factual findings to which the
appellate court must defer include the trial court's
assessment of the credibility of the witnesses. McCary v.
Commonwealth, 36 Va.App. 27, 35 (2001). However, the
Court reviews de novo the overarching question of
whether a search or seizure violated the Fourth Amendment.
Glenn, 275 Va. at 130.
appellant raises three challenges pertaining to his motion to
suppress. First, he argues that Nathanson's seizure of
the firearm violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Second, he
suggests that the examination of the firearm for its serial
number was an unconstitutional search. Third, he contends
that the officer unlawfully extended the traffic stop by
reading the serial number and consulting a database to
determine if the firearm was stolen.