Posts tagged with "pat down"

In Light of Reasonable Suspicion, Police Properly Detained Burglary Suspect

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the convictions of a burglar who argued that officers had no reasonable or articulable suspicion to detain him.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on March 21, 2007. Earlier that year, a neighborhood was suffering from a series of residential burglaries. On February 14, a victim was leaving her home when she saw a man wearing a dark sweatshirt with dark pants, with the hood pulled up, looking down while walking in front of her house. She later returned to find her house burglarized and many possessions, including a handgun, were stolen. She recalled seeing a similar person two days earlier, and conveyed this as well as the physical description to police; a similar description was developed from victims of other burglaries.

On March 21, the victim saw the defendant, who matched the appearance of the person near her house the day it was burglarized. Her husband called police, who were dispatched to the defendant’s location, and officers were aware that a gun was stolen during the burglary. The defendant was detained, and a pat down revealed a handgun in his sweatshirt pocket. The defendant informed police that “he was not properly licensed nor legally permitted to carry the gun.” The defendant was arrested and charged for numerous crimes on several dockets. He filed a motion to suppress all evidence because it was obtained during an unlawful search and seizure. The court denied this motion, finding that police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion that justified the search.

The defendant entered into a conditional plea to larceny in the first degree, burglary in the third degree, and stealing a firearm. Following sentencing he appealed, arguing that the court improperly denied his motion because police had no reasonable or articulable suspicion to stop him. He noted that “the record contains no indication that he was observed directly engaging in criminal conduct or suspicious activity.”

An officer may temporarily detain an individual for investigative purposes if he has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. The scope of an investigatory stop must be “carefully tailored to its underlying justification,” and an officer may make “reasonable inquiries” to confirm or dispel his suspicions. The ultimate question is “whether a reasonable person, having the information available to and known by the police, would have had that level of suspicion.”

In this case, the Appellate Court noted that the defendant’s presence in this neighborhood, the time of day, how he was dressed, and the manner in which he walked would not, on their own, be sufficient to justify a stop. However, in light of the additional information provided by victims, such factors provide sufficient reasonable and articulable suspicion to justify an investigatory stop. “The possibility of an innocent explanation does not deprive the officers of the capacity to entertain a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.” Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of larceny or burglary, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Where Handgun Was Stolen During Burglary, Handcuffing Suspect Prior to Pat Down Was Reasonable

In the previous article, “In Light of Reasonable Suspicion, Police Properly Detained Burglary Suspect,” the defendant unsuccessfully argued that police did not have reasonable or articulable suspicion to detain him. He also argued on appeal that the officer’s actions at the time of his detention were extreme and thus improper from the beginning of the stop.

When police detained the defendant, they immediately handcuffed him “for his and the officer’s safety.” At the suppression hearing, officers testified that they knew a handgun had been stolen during a previous burglary. As described during his testimony, an officer explained that, in light of this knowledge, “he ordered the defendant to remove his hands from his sweatshirt ‘[t]o make sure that he didn’t have a gun in his hand.’”

Police officers do not have the authority to detain and search every person they see on the street, but must have proper grounds to do so. Such a justification is a self-protective search for weapons, and the officer “must be able to point to particular facts from which he reasonably inferred that the individual was armed and dangerous.” Notably, an officer need not be certain that the individual is carrying a firearm. Instead, the question comes down to “whether a reasonably prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that of others was in danger.”

In this case, the Appellate Court of Connecticut credited the officer’s testimony. A handgun had been stolen during a burglary, and the suspect’s description matched the defendant’s appearance. In addition, the decision to order the defendant to remove his hands was based on this knowledge and was not arbitrary. Under these circumstances, “the police acted pursuant to a reasonably prudent belief that their safety and the safety of others—including the defendant—was in danger.” Therefore, the officers were justified and acted reasonably by patting down the defendant while he was handcuffed.

When faced with a charge of larceny or burglary, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.