Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

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E.g., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

In this possession of a firearm by a felon case, the trial court did not err by allowing evidence of a handgun a police officer removed from the defendant’s waistband during a lawful frisk that occurred after a lawful stop. Police received an anonymous 911 call stating that an African-American male wearing a red shirt and black pants had just placed a handgun in the waistband of his pants while at a specified gas station. Officer Clark responded to the scene and saw 6 to 8 people in the parking lot, including a person who matched the 911 call description, later identified as the defendant. As Clark got out of his car, the defendant looked directly at him, “bladed” away and started to walk away. Clark and a second officer grabbed the defendant. After Clark placed the defendant in handcuffs and told him that he was not under arrest, the second officer frisked the defendant and found a revolver in his waistband. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress evidence of the gun at trial. The court held that the trial court did not err by denying the motion to suppress. It began by holding that the anonymous tip was insufficient by itself to provide reasonable suspicion for the stop. However, here there was additional evidence. Specifically, as Clark exited his car, the defendant turned his body in such a way as to prevent the officer from seeing a weapon. The officer testified that the type of turn the defendant executed was known as “blading,” which is “[w]hen you have a gun on your hip you tend to blade it away from an individual.” Additionally the defendant began to move away. And, as the officers approached the defendant, the defendant did not inform them that he was lawfully armed. Under the totality of the circumstances, these facts support reasonable suspicion.

            The court then held that the frisk was proper. In order for a frisk to be proper officers must have reasonable suspicion that the defendant was armed and dangerous. Based on the facts supporting a finding of reasonable suspicion with respect to the stop, the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe that the defendant was armed. This, coupled with his struggle during the stop and continued failure to inform officers that he was armed, supported a finding that there was reasonable suspicion that the defendant was armed and dangerous.

An officer had reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk the defendant when the defendant was in a high crime area and made movements which the officer found suspicious. The defendant was in a public housing area patrolled by a Special Response Unit of U.S. Marshals and the DEA concentrating on violent crimes and gun crimes. The officer in question had 10 years of experience and was assigned to the Special Response Unit. Many persons were banned from the public housing area—in fact the banned list was nine pages long. On a prior occasion the officer heard shots fired near the area. The officer saw the defendant walking normally while swinging his arms. When the defendant turned and “used his right hand to grab his waistband to clinch an item” after looking directly at the officer, the officer believed the defendant was trying to hide something on his person. The officer then stopped the defendant to identify him, frisked him and found a gun in the defendant’s waistband.

An officer had reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk the defendant. The officer saw the defendant, who substantially matched a “be on the lookout” report following a robbery, a few blocks from the crime scene, only minutes after the crime occurred and travelling in the same direction as the robber. The defendant froze when confronted by the officer and initially refused to remove his hands from his pockets.

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