Wednesday, September 30, 2015

U.S. v. Archuleta, 2015 WL 4296639 (7/16/15) (Ut.) (unpub'd) - The 10th affirms the grant of a suppression motion based on a detention without reasonable suspicion. The officer lawfully stopped Mr. Archuleta for the offenses of jaywalking and improper bicycle lighting and asked Mr. Archuleta what was in the black bag he was carrying. Mr. Archuleta responded that he had a firearm. Standing alone, possession of the firearm in the black bag did not violate any law. A database search showed Mr. Archuleta had a misdemeanor drug conviction and other drug charges that didn't result in convictions. The officer should have let Mr. Archuleta go at that point. Instead the officer kept asking questions which lead to Mr. Archuleta's admissions that he used meth on a regular basis. That the encounter occurred at 1:25 a.m. in a "high-crime area" and that Mr. Archuleta had his criminal history did not create reasonable suspicion that he was a drug user illegally possessing the firearm. The 10th was unimpressed with the time of day because Mr Archuleta was going to a 24-hour convenience store. Importantly, the 10th picked apart the "high-crime area" evidence. It required the "high crime" to relate to the crime the officer suspected Mr. Archuleta of committing. A history of beer thefts at the store and the neighboring town's high crime rate didn't cut it with the 10th. No evidence indicated the area was more likely than others to be visited by drug users possessing firearms. Mr. Archuleta's drug history was not particularly probative either. The officer didn't specify the ages of the conviction and charges. So the history didn't provide a meaningful connection to the suspicion that Mr. Archuleta was a "current, active drug user." Under the new Rodriguez case, it didn't matter that the officer only illegally extended the stop for a minute or two. "An illegal seizure is an illegal seizure," the 10th declares.