CopLaw Update

November 2007

 

Training is the 13th Juror

STATE OF CONNECTICUT v. CHRISTOPHER JENKINS

(AC 26833)

November 20, 2007

 

The below are direct excerpts from the Jenkins Case. This a Connecticut Appellate Court Ruling that may or may not be heard by Connecticut's Supreme Court. The State has 20 days to file such an appeal. The reader is also encouraged to read the Dissent concerning this case. In addition the STATE OF CONNECTICUT v. DAVID BURROUGHS (AC 26095) is presently being reviewed by the Connecticut Supreme Court to determine at what point a "seizure" occurs.

Morgan proceeded to fill out an infraction ticket for the traffic violation that he had observed. By the time he finished filling out the ticket, Derrick Sutton, a Newington police sergeant, had arrived at the scene. At this point, Morgan returned to the defendant and asked him to get out of the vehicle.5 Morgan inquired whether the defendant ‘‘had anything illegal on him.’’ The defendant responded in the negative. Morgan testified that he did not believe that the defendant was armed. Nevertheless, Morgan searched him but did not find anything illegal on the defendant’s person.

After he explained the ticket, Morgan asked the defendant if he had anything illegal in the vehicle. Morgan stated that the basis for this question was the defendant’s nervousness, combined with the facts that the rented Altima had a Pennsylvania registration and license plate and that the defendant had a New Jersey driver’s license and claimed that he was coming from New York where he had visited his daughter. The defendant responded to Morgan’s inquiry by stating: ‘‘[N]ope, just some beer on the passenger seat floor; go ahead and check. You can check if you want.’’ Morgan instructed the defendant to move away from the vehicle and to stand with Sutton, behind the Altima.

He then began to search the interior of the Altima. He opened the center console and found a package wrapped in white paper. Morgan unwrapped the paper and found a plastic ziplock bag containing a white powder substance that he believed to be cocaine. After Morgan completed his search of the front area of the Altima, the defendant was placed under arrest for possession of cocaine and handcuffed. Following the defendant’s arrest, the back area of the Altima and the trunk were searched. A large quantity of heroin and an additional amount of cocaine were found in the trunk.6

‘‘The Fourth Amendment to the United States constitution protects the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search and seizures. Ordinarily, police may not conduct a search unless they first obtain a search warrant from a neutral magistrate after establishing probable cause. [A] search conducted without a warrant issued upon probable cause is per se unreasonable . . .subject only to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions.’’ State v. Badgett, 200 Conn. 412, 423, 512 A.2d 160, cert. denied, 479 U.S. 940, 107 S. Ct. 423, 93 L. Ed. 2d 373 (1986). ‘‘A warrantless search . . . is not unreasonable, however, under the fourth amendment to the United States constitution . . . when a person with authority to do so has freely consented. . . . It is . . . well settled that one of the specifically established exceptions to the requirements of both a warrant and probable cause is a search [or seizure] that is conducted pursuant to consent. . . . Whether a defendant has voluntarily consented to a search is a question of fact to be determined from the totality of the circumstances. The trial court makes this determination on the basis of the evidence that it deems credible along with the reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom.’’ State v. Wragg, 61 Conn. App. 394, 401, 764 A.2d 216 (2001); see also State v. Azuka, 278 Conn. 267, 275, 897 A.2d 554 (2006).

We conclude that the defendant was unlawfully detained, that his consent to search the vehicle was tainted by that illegal detention and that the state failed to purge the taint of the illegal detention. For those reasons, the evidence procured through the defendant’s consent should have been suppressed

It is axiomatic that ’’[t]he scope of [an investigative] detention must be carefully tailored to its underlying justification [and the] investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.’’ Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 103 S. Ct. 1319, 75 L. Ed. 2d 229 (1983). Thus, a stop pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968), ‘‘that is justified at its inception can become constitutionally infirm if it lasts longer or becomes more intrusive than necessary to complete the investigation for which that stop was made. . . . Like the determination of the initial justification, this inquiry is fact-bound. . . . The results of the initial stop may arouse further suspicion or may dispel the questions in the officer’s mind. . . . If . . . the officer’s suspicions are confirmed or are further aroused, the stop may be prolonged and the scope enlarged as required by the circumstances. . . . One function of a constitutionally permissible Terry stop is to maintain the status quo for a brief period of time to enable the police to investigate a suspected crime. A police officer who has proper grounds for stopping a suspect has constitutional permission to immobilize the suspect briefly in order to check a description or an identification, so long as his conduct is strictly tied to and justified by the circumstances which rendered its initiation permissible. . . .Determination of the means that are reasonably necessary to maintain the status quo necessarily depends on a fact-bound examination of the particular circumstances of the particular governmental intrusion on the personal security of a suspect.’’ State v. Casey, 45 Conn. App. 32, 40–41, 692 A.2d 1312, cert. denied, 241 Conn. 924, 697 A.2d 360 (1997).

In determining if a seizure has exceeded the scope of a permissible motor vehicle stop, the court must determine whether the officer’s action was justified at its inception and whether it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the interference in the first place. See State v. Carcare, 75 Conn. App. 756, 767, 818 A.2d 53 (2003); see also United States v. Jones, 234 F.3d 234, 240–41 (5th Cir. 2000) (holding that although initial stop of defendants’ vehicle for speeding was valid, continued detention, after completing computer check on drivers’ licenses and rental papers revealed clean records, was unreasonable and violated fourth amendment). With respect to whether the results of the initial stop aroused further suspicion warranting a prolonged inquiry, ‘‘[t]he police officer’s decision . . . must be based on more than a hunch or speculation. . . . In justifying the particular intrusion the police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.’’ State v. Hammond, 257 Conn. 610, 617, 778 A.2d 108 (2001).

...the record clearly reveals that Morgan’s inquiry into other suspected illegal activity came after Morgan’s purpose for effectuating the stop had been achieved.

...to conclude that the record is inadequate on this issue creates the implication that a police officer, during a routine motor vehicle stop made on the basis of a driving infraction, is authorized to make arbitrary requests for consent searches that are wholly unrelated to the initial purpose of the stop and unsupported by additional suspicion justifying the expansion of the stop, so long as the officer chooses not to conclude the encounter. Such a blanket authorization is contrary to our search and seizure jurisprudence, which generally proscribes such arbitrary conduct on the part of the police. See State v. Nash, 278 Conn. 620, 631, 899 A.2d 1 (2006) (‘‘[t]he police officer is not entitled to seize and search every person whom he sees on the street or of whom he makes inquiries’’

....to conclude otherwise also creates an implication that, during a routine motor vehicle stop, a defendant may not contest the validity of a consent to search unless the officer’s request for consent occurs after the officer has returned the defendant’s license and the ticket. In State v. Story, 53 Conn. App. 733, 741, 732 A.2d 785, cert. denied, 251 Conn. 901, 738 A.2d 1093 (1999), this court concluded that a police officer’s request for consent to search on the basis of nothing more than a hunch was not improper because the officer did not request the consent to search until after the stop had concluded and the defendant was free to leave at the time of the request. Mindful of Story, if we now sanction arbitrary requests for consent searches by the police prior to the conclusion of a stop, we effectively close the door on a criminal defendant’s ability ever to contest the validity of a consent to search during a motor vehicle stop.

On the basis of the record, we conclude that Morgan’s inquiry as to whether the defendant was engaged in illegal activity went beyond the scope of the traffic stop and occurred at a time when the stop reasonably should have ended. Having reached that conclusion, we now must determine whether Morgan had reasonable, articulable suspicion to expand the scope of the stop by questioning the defendant about illegal activity unrelated to the purpose of the underlying stop. See United States v. Santiago, supra, 341–42 (‘‘Once a computer check is completed and the officer either issues a citation or determines that no citation should be issued, the detention should end and the driver should be free to leave. . . . In order to continue a detention after such a point, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that a crime has been or is being committed.’’

Reviewing the evidence presented by the state, we conclude that it did not establish that Morgan had reasonable suspicion to expand the scope of the stop into an inquiry of whether the defendant was engaged in illegal activity unrelated to the underlying stop or that Morgan was proceeding on anything more than a mere hunch. Therefore, once Morgan began to question the defendant about unrelated illegal activity, the formerly valid motor vehicle stop morphed into an illegally prolonged seizure of the defendant. See United States v. Santiago, supra, 310 F.3d 338, 342 (unreasonable for officer to detain suspect after records check was completed on basis of ‘‘extreme nervousness’’).

‘‘Under the exclusionary rule, evidence must be suppressed if it is found to be the fruit of prior police illegality. . . . All evidence is not, however, a fruit of the poisonous tree simply because it would not have been discovered but for the illegal action of law enforcement officials. . . . Rather, the more apt question in such a case is whether, granting establishment of the primary illegality, the evidence to which instant objection is made has been come at by exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint. . . . The initial determination is, therefore, whether the challenged evidence is in some sense the product of illegal government activity.’’ State v. Burroughs, 99 Conn. App. 413, 426–27, 914 A.2d 592, cert. granted on other grounds, 282 Conn.909, 922 A.2d 1099 (2007).

Note:

The below evidence is being excluded from the next trial

FN6 A total of 3016 packets of heroin and 5.47 ounces of cocaine was seized from the defendant’s vehicle.

The reader is encouraged to review their respective police practices as to motor vehicle stops and consensual searches so as to comport to this existing standard

 

 

Reginald F. Allard Jr.

13thjuror, LLC

www.expertcop.com

13thjuror@cox.net

 

 

 


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