Driver's Suspicious Activity Supported Reasonable Suspicion Regarding Defendant Passenger; Sufficient Evidence Supported Felon-in-Possession Conviction

U.S. v. Saavedra, 2013 WL 6246474 (12/4/13) (N.M.) (unpub'd) - There was reasonable suspicion to suspect the passenger-defendant was involved in criminal activity where, after being stopped in a high crime area for a malfunctioning license plate light, the driver swayed back and forth and leaned forward as if he was retrieving something or hiding something under the seat; the driver, when asked why he was moving around, answered unresponsively "there is nothing in the car"; an officer saw a revolver sticking out from under the driver's seat; and the driver fled when an officer tried to handcuff him. The passenger-defendant's presence in that scenario was enough to create suspicion that he was involved in something. The officer had reasonable grounds to believe he had to detain the passenger to "preserve the status quo while investigating" and prevent the passenger from accessing the gun, trying to destroy evidence or otherwise interfere with the investigation. The officers were not obligated to give the passenger the option of leaving the scene. A "valid" inventory search [no explanation why the search was "valid"] lead to discovery of a gun and heroin near where the passenger had been seated. That discovery justified the defendant's arrest leading to a valid search incident to arrest, leading to the discovery of an electronic scale in the defendant's pocket.

There was sufficient evidence to support the defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, even if there was insufficient evidence to support his possession of other ammunition found in an undetermined part of the car. There was sufficient evidence he possessed the loaded gun found between the center console and the passenger seat, for which he was also charged in the same count of the indictment.