Being Suspected of Robbery Doesn’t Give Cops Right To Pat You Down.

By otmseo on August 24, 2020

In the case of In Re Jeremiah S. the First District of the California Appellate Court held that the police can’t just frisk you because they suspect you of committing robbery. The cops received a radio call that a woman had her purse and cell phone stolen. The radio call identified the suspects as young (20s), African American and wearing hoodies. The report didn’t state that there was a weapon involved in the robbery. Jeremiah S. and his friend were young, African American and wearing hoodies. As a result, two cops stopped them based on the radio call.

At the hearing on Jeremiah S.’s motion to suppress, the cops admitted that they weren’t told that the suspects were armed. The cops were merely told young, African American and wearing hoodies. They didn’t have any specific, articulable facts that the stopped kids were armed. The cops said that most robberies involve a weapon based on their experience and training. After stopping Jeremiah S. and his friend, the cops patted them down and found the stolen phone. They found no weapons. Based on this, the trial judge denied the motion to suppress the evidence. Jeremiah S. appealed.

The Court of Appeal Reversed That Decision.

The court held that that merely being suspected of a robbery is not sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion that would warrant a patdown search. The Supreme Court cases clearly establish that there needs to be more. The cops need specific articulable facts that this particular suspect has a weapon. There were none here.

What Was Their Decision Based on.

A patdown search is a limited search of a suspect’s person for weapons. This is an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. In Terry v. Ohio the US Supreme Court held that “if the officer conducting the so-called Terry stop believes the suspect is armed and dangerous, the officer may perform a limited search of a person’s outer clothing for weapons … whether or not the officer has probable cause to arrest.” The cops must support their search with a reasonable suspicion, supported by specific and articulable facts that the person has a weapon.

In Minnesota v. Dickerson the Supreme Court clarified, its purpose “is not to discover evidence of crime, but to allow the officer to pursue his [or her] investigation without fear of violence.” The search must be strictly “limited to that which is necessary for the discovery of weapons which might be used to harm the officer or others nearby.”

In looking to support such a search the Court looks toward evidence such as baggy clothes, bulges, sudden movement and evasiveness. The Court said that other than Jeremiah S. being a suspect in a robbery, there was no other evidence of a weapon. The Court discussed that robbery in California required either force or fear as an element, but that having a weapon was not required to rob someone. They discounted the cops statement that most robberies involved weapons.

If you, a friend or a loved one have a search and seizure issue you need a lawyer that knows that law and is not afraid to fight the prosecutors and defend your rights. Your case is important to me. Give me a call at 213-479-5322 to discuss a search and seizure issue or any criminal defense issue that concerns you.

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