W.D.Mo.: RS still required for a Long protective weapons search of a car

By John Wesley Hall
Law Offices of John Wesley Hall
Jan 11, 2017

There was no reasonable suspicion for a protective weapons search. Without reasonable suspicion, all cars are subject to search without cause, thereby nullifying the Fourth Amendment. Defendant was stopped in his driveway, and there was also an effort to call the search an inventory as an excuse, which is also rejected. United States v. Maple, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181403 (W.D.Mo. Dec. 14, 2016), adopted, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2516 (W.D.Mo. Jan. 9, 2017):

Reckless application of the Long protective search rule has the potential to effectively eviscerate the general warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment when a vehicle stop is undertaken by law enforcement officers. Unlike the limitations imposed on a valid “automobile search” and a “search incident to arrest,” the Long protective search rule [still valid under Gant] (like the Terry analysis) is constrained only by the reasonable suspicion requirement.

In this case, however, the Court concludes that Officer Infranca did not have the requisite reasonable suspicion to conduct a protective search of the passenger compartment of the Avenger. At the time of the search, Officer Infranca had observed the Avenger speeding, rolling through past two stop signs, being operated by a driver with a suspended license, and travelling nearly a block before stopping in response to the officer’s activation of his vehicle emergency lights. While the foregoing justified a stop of the vehicle, they do not — in considering the totality of the circumstances — justify a reasonable suspicion that there were weapons in the car. Also, as previously noted, the passenger compartment of the Avenger was locked and Maple no longer had possession of the keys.

Because the Court concludes that the search of the Avenger was not justified by any exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, the Court finds that the search of the vehicle and the ensuing seizure of the handgun were unconstitutional. As a result, the handgun is suppressed from evidence to be used against Maple. Moreover, the ensuing questioning of Maple about the gun directly arises from the illegal search and, as such, must be suppressed as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 488, 83 S.Ct. 407, 417, 9 L. Ed. 2d 441 (1963).