Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Another Detention in "High-Crime Area" OK'd Even Though No Single Circumstance Was Suspicious

U.S. v. Briggs, 2013 WL 3306393 (7/2/13) (Okl.) (Published) - This was a "close case," but there was reasonable suspicion to detain the defendant where: (1) the defendant and his companion were walking in a high-crime area; (2) the men changed direction and picked up their pace when they saw a police car, while the defendant repeatedly looked over his shoulder at the officers; (3) the defendant repeatedly grabbed at his waistline, which the officers thought indicated he had a gun; (4) the men took divergent paths into a yard of a home; (5) when officers asked to speak with the men, the defendant back-pedaled and acted nervous; and (6) the defendant's companion fled. The 10th indicated none of the factors alone justified detention. The reaction by the men to the police car was suspicious even though they didn't run. They were not simply going about their business. The 10th disagreed with the district court discounting the waistline grabbing. While the district court thought the defendant could have been just pulling up his pants, ambiguous conduct with an innocent explanation can still arouse suspicion. The companion's flight was suspicious, even though it wasn't in U.S. v. De La Cruz, 703 F.3d 1193 (10th Cir. 2013). Here the two men were acting in concert so that the wrongdoing of one was likely to be shared with the other. That the defendant chose not to flee could be because he didn't have time to do so, not that he had nothing to hide.