In 2018, Officer Todre Clopton of Biloxi P.D. observed David Govero in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that was stopped in the middle of the road. The vehicle was blocking both lanes. As Clopton approached, Govero exited the vehicle with an air compressor and said his tire was low but Clopton did not observe any low tires.
Clopton asked Govero for his drivers license which he did not have and then asked him if he had any weapons. Govero told him he was a felon and he had a knife. Clopton then retrieved the metallic knuckles with a folding knife from Govero’s pocket and placed him under arrest.
He was convicted for being a felon in possession of a weapon and sentenced to eight years as a habitual offender. On appeal, Govero argued the officer had no reasonable suspicion for the stop so the weapon should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. MCOA affirmed.
In Floyd, MSC said that an officer may make a brief, investigatory stop of a vehicle if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the occupants of the vehicle have been, are currently, or are about to be involved in criminal activity. The suspicion must be grounded in specific and articulable facts.
Grounds for reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop generally comes from two sources: either the officer’s personal observation or an informant’s tip. Reasonable suspicion is the standard for a stop or search based on suspicious activity that does not yet amount to criminal activity, but which compels an officer to believe that criminal activity has happened, is happening, or is about to happen.
In this case, Clopton personally observed an ambiguous situation – Govero’s vehicle stopped in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. It was reasonable for Clopton to investigate to see what was actually occurring. As Clopton approached, he testified that Govero grabbed an air compressor and began pumping air in his back tire. This action served to further raise suspicion because the tire did not appear low. Thereafter, Clopton asked Govero for his driver’s license.
Govero admitted that he did not have a driver’s license. At this point, Clopton had a legal basis to arrest Govero. Clopton then asked Govero if he had any weapons on his person. Govero replied that he did and the knife was retrieved. This issue is without merit.