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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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