Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Third Circuit holds investigatory stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion and vacates conviction

In United States v. Brown, No. 05-1723 (3d Cir. May 22, 2006), the Third Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Brown’s motion to suppress evidence seized during an investigatory stop due to a lack of reasonable suspicion, and vacated his conviction. Brown was approached by a police officer who told him that he matched the description of a robbery suspect, and that the victim was being brought over to identify him, after which he would be able to go free if he was not identified. The officer’s bases for approaching Brown included a radio description that included only race, age, and color of clothing, a tip by a friend of the robbery victim which was merely his observation that there were two black males at a nearby street corner, and that Brown was hailing a cab when the officer arrived. The police officer then demanded that Brown submit to a pat-down for weapons, which uncovered a gun. Although the government argued Brown was seized when he was handcuffed after his attempt to flee, the Third Circuit found that the seizure occurred when Brown was told by a police officer that a robbery victim was being brought over to identify him as a possible suspect. The Third Circuit held that Brown’s seizure was, further, without reasonable suspicion and therefore did not fall under the Terry exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

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