Many times police officers will stop someone on the street. When the police tell them to stop, the suspect runs away and takes flight. Or sometimes, the law enforcement officer says “hey, mind if I talk to you?” and the suspect takes off getting charged with various offenses.
Recently, the District Court of Appeal heard an appeal in such a case. In this case, after a chase, the defendant was caught and charged with armed resisting an officer with violence, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed firearm, and battery on a law enforcement officer. The arrested individual moved to suppress the evidence, alleging that he was stopped without a reasonable suspicion and the search was conducted without probable cause. The trial court granted the motion and the State Attorney (prosecutor) appealed the suppression of the evidence in that case.
There was an issue as to whether the defendant in this case even knew whether the person yelling was actually a police officer. If someone yells at you “Hey! Stop!” without identifying themselves as a police officer, how do you know it’s not a mugger? Even if it is that person yells that they are an officer, how do you know they are not a mugger or rapist lying trying to get you to stop? This issue was disregarded because the “high crime area” was dispositive of the issue before the criminal court.
The trial court found the chase did not occur in a high-crime area. The trial judge found, and the State agreed, that Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119 (2000), justifies such a stop only when the fleeing occurs in a high-crime area. The issue on appeal was whether the trial court erred in finding that the prosecutor failed to prove that the area in which this flight occurred was a high-crime area.
The testimony the prosecutor and police offered at the hearing on the motion to suppress was that this was a high-crime area “based on the multiple, multiple calls for service for crime and violent crime in that area” and that the officers were in the area at the time of the incident because of the “recent spike in the report of violent crimes in that area.” There were no specifics given as to the number or types of crimes or where, within this quite large area designated as a high-crime area, the crimes occurred. While “empirical studies or statistical data” may not be required, vague testimony such as “there being multiple narcotic complaints that go on out there” would not establish a high-crime area. The testimony failed to convince the trial judge that the stop was justified and the record does not justify substituting our own fact-finding for that of the trial court. Once again, a police officer can not just say “it’s a high crime area”. That is merely a conclusion and the officer's opinion. The prosecutor need to provide evidence such as statistics, crimes committed, 911 calls, etc. before an area is a “high crime area”. The appellate court found no evidence that this was a “high crime area” either and upheld the criminal trial court’s order suppressing all the evidence and dismissing the criminal charges.
Call an aggressive Polk County criminal attorney that keeps up-to-date on the latest criminal case law. If you do not have an attorney who reads the latest criminal statutes and rulings you will not get the best result to your Polk criminal case.
Call Thomas C. Grajek now and go to court with a an attorney that will fight for you!
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