Monday, March 08, 2010

Court Affirms Conviction, 30-year Sentence

US v. Rooks: Rooks was a passenger in a car driven by his brother. They were pulled over because of a cracked windshield. During the stop, the officer detected the aroma of marijuana coming from the car, as well as noticed a cigarette but and plastic bag on the center console. After getting permission from the driver to search that part of the car, the officer confirmed that the cigarette contained marijuana and the bag had marijuana residue. After another officer arrived for backup, the driver was ordered out of the car and detained. When the officer tried to do the same with Rooks, Rooks fled. During the flight, Rooks threw away a plastic bag containing crack cocaine, which the officer recovered. Rooks was apprehended and made some incriminating statements to the officer. Rooks was charged with possession with intent to distribute crack. He unsuccessfully moved to suppress both the drugs and his statements. He also unsuccessfully sought to keep the Government from introducing three prior drug convictions at trial. Rooks was convicted and sentenced to 360 months in prison as a career offender.

On appeal, Rooks raised issues related to both his conviction and sentence, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected. First, the court rejected Rooks's argument that the seizure of the drugs he threw away during flight violated the Fourth Amendment because the officer who ordered Rooks out of the car to perform a pat down search had reasonable suspicion to believe he was armed and dangerous. Second, the court rejected Rooks's argument that the Government should not have been able to present evidence of his prior convictions, holding that the evidence was relevant to Rooks's "familiarity with the drug distribution business" and therefore his intent to distribute the drugs. Finally, the court rejected Rooks's argument that his prior federal convictions and a state conviction based on the same conduct were part of a "single common scheme or plan" for purposes of determining whether he was a career offender.

No comments: