Friday, January 18, 2013

Can reasonable suspicion arise in 5-10 seconds?

US v. Bumpers:   According to his testimony, a police officer in a high crime neighborhood observed two men, standing, for approximately five to ten seconds near some dumpsters at the back of local convenience store before attempting to leave at the sight of the police, when that officer determined that reasonable suspicion for the crime of trespassing had arisen. Additionally, the store had posted "No Trespassing" signs and alerted the police to enforce the store’s no trespassing policy.

Irvin Bumpers initially gave the police a false first name when asked for his identification by police; that name had an active warrant, so he gave his actual first name, which also returned an active warrant. Upon arrest, the police discovered a firearm on Bumpers. Prior to trial, Bumpers moved to suppress the firearm, but failed in his efforts. He was convicted at trial of being a felon in possession.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reviewed the district court’s decision to deny the motion to suppress. It referred to this case as a close call, but because only an investigative stop was at issue, not a frisk or an arrest the Fourth Circuit found there was sufficient reasonable suspicion based on the facts of this case. The cogent dissent finds otherwise, stating that "[p]ermitting a Terry stop under these tenuous circumstances fails to prevent a substantial portion of innocent travelers in high-crime areas from being subjected to what the majority concedes can be a degrading and unwarranted intrusion."

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