Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

District Court Properly Refused to Suppress Evidence

United States v. Clark, No. 12-1221-cr (2d Cir. Jan. 17, 2014) (Newman, Winter, and Droney) (summary order), available here

This summary order holds that the district court properly refused to suppress evidence found following a 911 call. (As discussed below, the Court issued a separate, published decision in this same case reversing one of Clark’s convictions for insufficiency of the evidence.)
A 911 operator received a call from a woman in a bar saying that Chris and Jason Richardson were outside in a white Jeep Cherokee with guns and were going to attack somebody. The caller gave her first name only and did not want any responding officers to interview her. The 911 operator relayed the information to the police, who recognized the Richardsons as having been involved in prior violent crimes.
When the police arrive at the scene, they blocked the Jeep Cherokee with their patrol cars and exited their vehicles with guns drawn, but at their sides. The police ordered Clark, the driver of the Jeep, to exit the car, and when he did, they saw the butt of a handgun underneath the driver’s seat. The police also later found cocaine.
The Court held that the evidence was lawfully obtained. The Court ruled that the officers’ actions prior to discovering the gun constituted a “stop,” not an arrest, and that the stop was supported by reasonable suspicion. The Court distinguished this case from Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266 (2000), the leading “anonymous tip” case, on three grounds: 1) the tip here gave the names of some of the suspects, and law enforcement recognized them as having been involved in past offenses; 2) the tip was not “truly anonymous” because the caller gave her first name and location; and, 3) the call reported an “ongoing emergency” rather than “general criminality.” 
Since the stop was lawful, and the firearm was seen in plain view, the district court did not err in refusing to suppress the gun or the other evidence obtained upon Clark’s arrest.
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