Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Generalized Suspicion and Hunches Can Add Up to Particularized Reasonable Suspicion

United States v. Tubens, 2014 WL 4290598 (Utah) (Published). Tubens was riding an overland bus when it pulled into a rest area for a prescheduled stop. There, two officers were waiting with their dogs to search the luggage compartment. Both dogs “alerted” or “indicated” to Tubens’ suitcase. He was summoned off the bus to watch one officer search his suitcase. The officer found nothing. However that was not the end of this “consensual encounter.” Based on his experience that smugglers “move their stash between checked and carry-on bags," the officer went onto the bus and took a paper bag and CD case from the rack above where Tubens had been sitting. He didn’t find anything in those containers either. Despite strike two, the court stated “common experience suggested [Tubens] was probably carrying additional luggage . . .” so the officer was justified in going back on the bus again. On board he told all the passengers to take their luggage off the racks and put it on their laps. Once all the bags were off the rack, the officer saw a black bag near Tubens seat. He demanded that someone claim the bag and no one did, so he took it off the bus. He confronted Tubens with the bag and Tubens said it wasn’t his. The officer asked for and got consent from the bus driver to open the bag. Unfortunately, he found 2 prescription pill bottles with Tubens' name and two packages of methamphetamine.

In a published opinion, the court explains that generalized suspicion and hunches can satisfy the particularized and articuable suspicion requirements of the Fourth Amendment: “Inferring from the totality of the circumstances that Tubens likely had another bag on the bus, [the officer] was justified in reboarding the bus and continuing his investigation [even if it took an hour].”