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You don’t need a traffic citation to make a Terry car stop – also a discussion on consent in the Mississippi constitution

Facts

In 2013, Wayne Barrett heard a knock on his door and let Keagan Latham use the phone. Latham was a friend or relative of his former neighbors and left after using the phone. A few minutes later, Barrett heard another knock on his door and this time he did not recognize any of the three individuals when he opened the door. The three were armed and forced their way into his residence.

They assaulted him and went room by room taking computers, guns, wallet, and an I-phone. Barrett told police about Latham who identified the others as Trevontae Johnson, Meeko Johnson, and Isaac Johnson. Latham described their appearances and said most of the stolen items were taken to a house on Ada Drive. Police put a group text message out including the photos of the suspects.

While awaiting a search warrant for the Ada Drive home, Greenville P.D. conducted surveillance and noticed two individuals, matching the description and photos of the suspects, leave the house in a blue Chevrolet Impala. Other Greenville P.D. officers stopped the Impala after being advised by officers at the house as to what was transpiring.

Officer Andy Osbun later testified that he did not observe the men in the Impala breaking any laws prior to the stop; rather, the reason for the stop was to just identify the people in the Impala. Osbun also testified that he did not see photographs of the suspects until after the traffic stop was conducted.

Isaac and Meeko provided ID and gave consent to search the vehicle which contained two computers stolen from the house. The search warrant from the house was executed and guns were found that matched those stolen from Barrett. Isaac’s palm print was found on one of the guns.

Isaac, Meeko, and Trevontae were convicted of burglary, armed robbery, and kidnaping. Isaac and Trevontae were sentenced to 93 years while Meeko was sentenced to 103 years. On appeal, they argued there was no reasonable suspicion to stop the car. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

The United States Supreme Court held in Brendlin that when a vehicle is stopped pursuant to a police traffic stop, the vehicle is seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and both the driver and the passenger of the vehicle may challenge the constitutionality of the stop.

In determining whether reasonable suspicion exists such that an investigatory stop may be conducted, the court must consider whether, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, the detaining officers had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity. Grounds for reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop generally come from two sources: either the officers’ personal observation or an informant’s tip. The officer’s personal observation includes information from other law-enforcement personnel.

The MSC said in Singletary v. State, 318 So. 2d 873 (Miss. 1975), that given reasonable circumstances an officer may stop and detain a person to resolve an ambiguous situation without having sufficient knowledge to justify an arrest. Osbun stopped Isaac and Meekco based on information that he received from Sergeant Kenneth Redfield.

Redfield, while conducting surveillance of the Ada Drive residence, saw two men exit the house and get into the blue Impala. The two men’s appearances fit the description of two of the suspects that Latham had previously provided to police. As personal observation may be transmitted from officer to officer, we fail to see how this does not constitute reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop. Further, Redfield testified that images of the suspects had been circulated through a group text message among those involved in the investigation of this particular matter. Thus, the stop was not illegal.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO122711.pdf