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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.