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Judges: Vehicle stop by cops reasonable

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a man's illegal gun possession conviction, ruling the South Bend Police officer who made the traffic stop had reasonable suspicion the car may be linked to a shooting in an apartment complex.

In United States of America v. Arnold Brewer, No. 08-3257, a police officer responded to a fight in an apartment complex known for criminal activity. As Officer Tutino was near the complex, he heard popping sounds like gun shots, and then heard on the dispatch shots had been fired. As he entered the apartment complex on the only road in which one can enter or exit the complex, he passed a white SUV driven by Arnold Brewer. Tutino radioed for other officers to watch for the SUV. By the time bystanders had told the officer the shots came from the SUV, another officer had already stopped Brewer's car. Brewer admitted to having guns in the car, although there was no evidence the shots heard came from any of Brewer's guns.

Because the witness descriptions of the vehicle came in after Brewer was stopped, that report can't be used to justify the stop, wrote Judge Richard Posner. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judges had to determine whether the car was stopped based on reasonable suspicion or pure hunch. Based on the circumstances of this case, the federal appellate judges ruled the police had reasonable suspicion to stop Brewer's car.

This case is different than one in which the police randomly stopped drivers to check drivers' licenses and registration when there was not suspicion of the drivers breaking the law, as was forbade in Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 657 (1979), wrote Judge Posner.

The police in this case had a compelling reason to ask questions of the white SUV because it was the only car seen leaving the complex just after Tutino heard gunshots. Considering the dangerousness of the crime, the safety of the officers responding to the incident, the minimal intrusion on the occupants of the car, and the need to stop potentially fleeing suspects until more information could be obtained, the police acted reasonably, wrote Judge Posner.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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