Can Looking like a Suspect Land You in Jail? Maybe...
Have you ever tried to read a code section (a law) and get lost in all the legal jargon? Welcome to the club! I’m not certain the person who wrote the laws knew exactly what they were trying to say either. With that being said, I am not a lawyer and I do not give legal advice other than DON’T BREAK THE LAW.
The best way to avoid breaking the law is to know the law; so, I like to keep up with any new legal updates. Keep in mind that laws have room for interpretation, so please feel free to leave comments with your interpretation.
The best online site I have found for legal updates is Legal & Liability Risk Management Institute. The legal update discussed below was written by Brian S. Batterton, Attorney.
United States v. Felix is a case from 2015 regarding police-citizen encounters. A patrol officer responded to a robbery in an area that he was familiar with because robberies in that area were common. Based on his past experiences, the suspects usually ran to neighborhoods nearby.
The officer was given the following description of the suspects: two black males, possibly in their early 20s, wearing black shirts, and last seen heading south. The patrol officer was in the area when he saw a male matching that description. The patrol officer made contact with the male who was later identified as the Defendant: Felix.
Felix began acting suspiciously and refused to do what the officer told him to do. Once other officers arrived, Felix was restrained, and a handgun was discovered in his waist band. Felix was a convicted felon. A convicted felon is not permitted to possess firearms.
Felix was indicted on several federal charges. Felix tried to get the charges dropped arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop him initially, subsequently making the evidence inadmissible; however, Felix was denied the motion to suppress the evidence and was later convicted of his charges.
Felix appealed the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence. The court ruled that based on the totality of the circumstances, the officer had sufficient reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop; furthermore, based on Felix’s behavior during the stop, the officer had a reason to believe that Felix was armed and dangerous; therefore, the evidence was legally obtained. The conviction was upheld.
Felix was originally stopped as a suspect in an armed robbery but charged with gun and drug charges instead. Even though he wasn’t charged with the robbery (either because he didn’t do it or there was not enough evidence to charge him), his other charges were upheld.
The moral of the story is if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, avoid being in violation of the law.
Click here to read the full article.