Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Emergency Road Block To Locate Bank Robber Did Not Violate 4th Amendment

U.S. v. Paetsch, 2015 WL 1543090 (4/8/15) (Col.) (Published) - The 10th affirms a denial of a motion to suppress in an emergency roadblock situation. A well-disguised man brandishing a gun robbed a bank in Aurora, Colorado. Amidst the cash he took was a tracker that transmitted a silent signal to the police. The tracker could be located within a 60-foot diameter. 14 minutes after the robbery, the tracker indicated the car carrying the tracker was stopped at a red light. Officers prevented the 20 vehicles containing 29 people that were stopped at the light from going anywhere. The tracker could not tell the officers which of the 20 cars had the tracker. The lead officer tried to get a homing beacon to the intersection that could pinpoint the tracker to within a 10-foot diameter. Various mishaps [officer forgot his keys to the office containing the beacon, his siren broke] caused the beacon to arrive 54 minutes after the stop. In the meantime, 29 minutes after the stop, officers pulled Mr. Patesch out of his car and onto the ground with weapons drawn, handcuffed him and sat him on the curb because he was acting "suspiciously." He shifted in his seat, repeatedly looked around and didn't keep his hands outside the car as ordered. Once the beacon arrived, it turned out the officer who brought it couldn't figure out how to use it, although it did evidence a weak signal coming from Mr. Paetsch's car. Using weapons and ballistic shields, the officers ordered all the remaining occupants to leave their cars. The officers handcuffed all those who did not have kids with them. One hour and 24 minutes after the stop, officers did a secondary search and found in Mr. Paetsch's car a bank money wrapper. Soon after, a person who knew how to use the beacon got a strong signal from Mr. Paetsch's car. They found a bunch of incriminating stuff in that car. Nonetheless, officers kept the other motorists at the intersection for another half hour until 2 hours and 18 minutes after the stop.

First, the 10th found the initial barricade to be reasonable. There was no need for individualized suspicion in these circumstances. (1) The public concern was grave. An armed robber was fleeing, representing a substantial public threat. (2) The seizure advanced the public interest well enough. There was a 5 % chance one of the cars contained the robber. This compared favorably to approved roadblocks that only captured 1.6 % or less of drivers who needed to be arrested. Plus, the officers knew for sure the barricade would be effective because the robber was one of the people stopped there. A roadblock does not have to be minimally intrusive, says the 10th, nor do officers have to use the least intrusive method. The greater the danger, the more latitude officers have. (3) The severity of the interference with individual liberty wasn't so bad: 29 people detained for 29 minutes before individualized suspicion was developed. Plus, the people were in cars, which are entitled to less protection than homes. And the officers acted with diligence, albeit incompetently. The 10th refused to consider the intrusion on the innocent motorists after Mr. Paetsch was singled out. There was enough individualized justification to remove Mr. Paetsch from his car 29 minutes after the stop. The 10th refused to include in its analysis the unexpected problems that arose getting the beacon to the scene together with a competent person. There was no evidence the lead officer should have known the delays would occur when he ordered the barricade. He expected the beacon to arrive within 30 minutes, during which time individualized suspicion of Mr. Paetsch arose.

Second, as for the detention of Mr. Paetsch after he was removed from his car, his detention was not unreasonably long. They could detain him for the actual time it took to get the beacon to locate the tracker, an hour and a half after the initial stop.

Chief Judge Briscoe concurred in the result. She did not think the officers had reasonable suspicion Mr. Paetsch was the robber when they removed him from the car. She pointed to the fact that the officers told Mr. Paetsch he was not a suspect as they handcuffed him and sat him on the curb. But, Judge Brisoce says, even if the length of his detention violated Mr. Paetsch's 4th Amendment rights, the exclusionary rule should not apply. More expansion of the good faith exception!!! The officers acted in good faith. The delay was the result of negligence, not deliberate, reckless or grossly negligent conduct, she opines.