Thursday, August 2nd, 2007


United States v. Baldwin, No. 06-4265-cr (2d Cir. July 23, 2007) (Jacobs, Wesley, Gibson, CJJ).

Police officers, acting on an anonymous tip, pulled over a car that the defendant was driving. He refused to comply with any of their orders and, when one officer approached the passenger’s side, he sped off. After a chase, the car slammed into an embankment and the defendant was arrested. In the car, the officers found firearms and ammunition along with crack and drug paraphernalia.

Defendant moved to suppress the evidence on the ground that the initial order to stop the car was illegal. The district court denied the motion, holding that the defendant was not seized because he did not submit to the officers’ authority.

On appeal, the court agreed: “We hold that, to comply with an order to stop – and thus to become seized – a suspect must do more than halt temporarily; he must submit to police authority, for there is no seizure without actual submission.” The court adopted a totality of the circumstances test to determine whether there has been a submission to authority, focusing on “the nature of the interaction, and not its length.”

The court went on to conclude that the evidence was lawfully obtained because it was incident to the defendant’s arrest, and the arrest, by the time it happened, was supported by probable cause. It also rejected the defendant’s claim that, since the order to stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion, everything that followed was tainted. A defendant can be seized based on events that occur after the issuance of an unreasonable order to stop.

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