Saturday, July 3, 2010

People v King - Court of Appeals - June 29

County court had ruled that police had no basis to stop the defendant, and that it could not be concluded that he stopped voluntarily. County court nonetheless refused to suppress the evidence obtained from the stop. The Court of Appeals reversed and suppressed. All that is surprising is that three judges dissented from this two paragraph opinion.

The dissenters objected that, since the defendant and a companion were on separate motorcycles, when police legitimately stopped the friend both riders pulled over, since it was unclear who was being signalled. The dissenters admitted that the officer did not direct defendant “either to stay or leave”, and thus he remained until another officer arrived and noticed he was drunk.

Maybe I am missing something. Perhaps the dissenters focused on the word "stop" and concluded that pulling over the defendant was an acceptable collateral consequence to the legitimate stop, which is reasonable enough. However, it seems to me that if the police do not inform the second rider that he is free to leave, then his continued detention is coerced and therefore illegitimate. The dissenters analogy was to a passenger in a car, who is detained when the driver is. This seems inapt. Passengers do not travel in their own vehicles, hence the name.

If an officer shouts "stop" at a pedestrian he is not free to detain everyone within earshot for as long as he likes so long as they stopped when he shouted. The only mistake the majority made, that I can see, was in failing to revise and extend their memorandum to beat the dissenters with blunt prose.

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