Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fourth Circuit issues Terry Stop Opinion

In United States v. McQueen, the criminal defendant challenged the lawfulness of an initial stop that resulted in the discovery of a firearm in his car. (After the initial stop, McQueen consented to the search of this automobile). McQueen was a felon in possession. The Fourth Circuit held that the stop was lawful:

We do not believe that the initial stop was unlawful because there was sufficient evidence to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that illegal activity was afoot. A reliable informant phoned in a tip about a suspicious car in a bar parking lot. G.S.A. 6. From a distance, the officers observed an unconscious man in the driver's seat of the car. Id. They could also see that the rear bumper of the car was bashed in and that the car was running at idle. Id. at 6, 21. The car had out-of-state license plates, id. at 22-23, and was parked in an area known for drug and gang activity, id. at 14-15, 37. Under these circumstances, the officers, in light of their experience, could have reasonably suspected that McQueen, among other things, either had been or was about to drive drunk or that McQueen had hit a car and driven away. In light of these circumstances, the district court was correct to conclude that the officers had the reasonable suspicion necessary for the Terry stop. Therefore, McQueen's consent to search his car was effective and the district court did not err in refusing to suppress the handgun.

No comments: