Criminal – Search & Seizure: HAMPTON V. COM. (SC 8/23/2007)

DATE RENDERED: 08/23/2007

Synopsis: Police had reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop Defendant following tip from citizen informant and totality of the circumstances.

TC properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress following search and seizure. In light of the totality of the circumstances, the officers had a reasonable and articulable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity, thereby justifying a brief investigatory stop. Though his name was unknown, the man who gave the tip to the police was not truly anonymous. The officers were familiar with him, having spoken with him on several previous occasions. One of the officers had previously received reliable tips from the man about criminal activity. Rather than being an anonymous tipster, whose information would need significant verification in order to support even a reasonable, articulable suspicion, the man on the bike was more akin to a citizen informant, whose tip inherently bears more indicia of reliability than that of a purely anonymous informant. Citizen informants are tipters who have face-to-face contact with the police or whose identity may be readily ascertained . Their tips "are generally competent to support a finding of reasonable suspicion (and in some cases, probable cause) whereas the same tip from a truly anonymous source would likely not have supported such a finding." While the tip from the man on the bike enjoyed greater indicia of reliability as to its content than a purely anonymous tip, absent other information, its content alone would have been insufficient to allow police to perform an investigative stop of Defendant. The police, however, had other information that justified their stop of Defendant when combined with the tip.

In light of the circumstances, the police did not exceed their lawful authority by opening the car door before asking Defendant to exit the car. Further, Defendant’s consent to the search of his person was not involuntary and coerced because he was in pain from the handcuffs at the time.

Digested by Scott C. Byrd

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