No sooner had I reported a case where a police search and seizure was involved, which case was decided in the First Circuit Court (Massachusetts), when I came across a Massachusetts Superior Court case which came down on the same subject matter.
In this case a state trooper acting on an anonymous tip stopped a taxi and ordered the passenger out of the vehicle. He found a generic type bag, and knew that this neighborhood was known for drug dealing.
The court stated that the Trooper only had the following before he made the stop 1) 54 Andover Street in Lawrence, MA was in a relatively high crime neighborhood known for drug distribution.; 2) a woman meeting the general physical description (tall and dark skinned) had exited the specific the specific address provided by the informant at a time consistent with the tip; 3) the person recognized the police officer, appeared to become nervous; and 4) although not predicted by the anonymous tip, the person was carrying a generic plastic shopping bag.
The Court stated; “Although it is true that various innocuous factors, when taken together, and in context can provide reasonable suspicion for a legitimate stop, the present facts are simply not enough. The fact that someone, for example, was “extremely nervous” or meets a general description is not enough to satisfy the requirement of ‘specific articulable facts’.
Given that there is no reasonable suspicion to justify the stop, then there was no legitimate basis to force the defendant to exit the taxi cab. If the court were to reach this issue, the exit order also appears to be invalid. Unlike the typical case, the exit order in this case was not based upon any type of asserted concern about a police officer’s safety. Instead, the only reason for requiring the defendant to exit the taxi cab was to effectuate a search of the back seat of the taxi cab. Given the facts of the case, it is highly questionable whether a legitimate threshold inquiry would include searching the seat of a taxi cab from which the defendant had already exited”
Commonwealth v. Otis (Essex Superior Court-Criminal Action No. 01-CR77 1084).
This motion to suppress evidence was allowed by the court in this case as opposed to the case of United States v. Henderson which I recently reported.
Frequently asked questions concerning police search and seizure might be answered in light of the facts revealed by the court’s reasoning in each case.