CRIMINAL: Search and seizure investigatory stop of known drug trafficker approaching vehicle in middle of road at night and in high crime area was based upon reasonable articulable suspicion: MORRIS V. COM. (COA 8/15/2008)

MORRIS V. COM.
CRIMINAL:  Search and seizure  investigatory stop  of known drug trafficker approaching vehicle in middle of road at night and in high crime area was based upon
reasonable articulable suspicion
2007-CA-001571
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING
PANEL: LAMBERT PRESIDING; COMBS, DIXON CONCUR
FAYETTE COUNTY
DATE RENDERED: 8/15/2008

CA affirmed TC’s denial of Morris’ motion to suppress alleging a lack of reasonable suspicion.  The testimony of both officers reflects the grounds for their reasonable suspicion. First, they initially witnessed a known drug trafficker approach a stopped vehicle in the middle of the road in the dark hours of morning in a high crime area. As they approached the stopped vehicle, it pulled away, but they simultaneously noticed a group of individuals huddled behind a nearby conversion van. Furthermore, the known drug trafficker approached said group of individuals as the officers got out of their vehicle. Finally, the individuals not only dispersed when the officers began to approach them, but they also intentionally dispersed in different directions from one another at a brisk pace.  Although none of these factors alone would create a reasonable suspicion, when considered in light of the totality of the circumstances and through the experience and training of the officers, CA held that the TC correctly found that the officers had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop of Morris. Moreover, the warrant check was well within the scope of the stop, and the search in the vehicle was permissible as it was subsequent to a valid arrest.  Therefore, no error in the court’s determination that the officers had an
articulable, reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot nor in its subsequent denial of Morris’ motion to suppress. Alternatively, however, had the officers not had a reasonable suspicion to stop Morris, the existence of the valid warrant for his arrest would have removed the taint caused by any unlawful detainment. See Hardy v. Commonwealth, 149 S.W.3d 433, 436
(Ky.App. 2004).

Digested by Scott C. Byrd
www.olginandbyrd.com


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