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7th Circuit: Officer allowed to resume frisk

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As one 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge cautioned, it’s generally not a good idea to ride around in a car with cocaine on you when police have many reasons why they may legitimately stop the car.

The warning came from Judge Diane Wood in United States of America v. Jermarcus Robinson, No. 09-3955, in which Jermarcus Robinson appealed his conviction of possession with intent to distribute. The federal appellate court affirmed.

Fort Wayne Police Officer Shane Pulver pulled over the car Robinson was riding in because the officer recognized driver David Robinson as a habitual traffic offender who didn’t have a license. Within seven minutes of the initial stop, Pulver saw a pocket knife in Jermarcus Robinson’s pocket, began a pat-down of Robison as his sister and girlfriend drove up, a second officer responded, Pulver stopped his pat-down to search the car and found a digital scale, then resumed the pat-down and found the hard object he felt earlier near Robinson’s backside. The object was a bag of 54 grams of crack cocaine.

Robinson lost his motion to suppress the evidence and entered into a conditional plea agreement.

He argued that the events that occurred in the seven minutes of the stop and search should be divided into three distinct stages and that he should have been let go after stage one – when police first frisked him and then stopped. He claimed stage two – the search of the car – wasn’t authorized by Arizona v. Gant, 129 S.Ct. 1710 (2009), because he wasn’t arrested until after the car was searched so the search wasn’t incident of the arrest. He claimed stage three was when Pulver searched him again and found the cocaine.

“If these events had dragged out over a longer period, then Robinson’s account might be more persuasive,” wrote Judge Wood. “Similarly, we might be more inclined to see things his way if Velma and Sunny had not been hovering just steps away and becoming increasingly agitated. But they were there, and this was a rapidly evolving situation.”

When Pulver stopped his pat-down and went to the car, another officer was there to watch Robinson. Pulver handed off responsibility for Robinson to his partner, not because he had finished his frisk and Robinson was free to go. Robinson also originally tightened up when first frisked to prevent Pulver from finding the drugs. Pulver felt a hard object, believed it wasn’t a weapon, and went to secure the car before finishing the pat-down.

The judges looked at the incident as a single event, not different stages. They also ruled it wasn’t necessary to rely on the fact that Pulver saw the scale in the car to justify resuming his search of Robinson.  

“Finally, just because he indicated after the fact that his initial impression was that the hard object he felt for an instant during the first phase was not a weapon, objectively speaking something hard might have been harmful, and Pulver was entitled to assure himself that his first impression was correct,” wrote Judge Wood.
 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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