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.