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Name: U.S. v. Edwards
Case #: 13-50165
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 07/31/2014
Summary

911 caller provided officers reasonable suspicion to stop defendant; the stop did not become an arrest when officers drew guns on defendant and handcuffed him. Police received a 911 call from an unidentified man reporting that a “young black male” was shooting at passing cars, including the caller’s. Officers responded to the area and stopped defendant and another man. Defendant was searched and a gun was found. After his motion to suppress was denied, he pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a gun (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)). He appealed. Held: Affirmed. “The totality of the circumstances determines whether and when an investigatory stop becomes an arrest.” Two components of the detention are examined: (1) the intrusiveness of the stop (i.e., how aggressive were the officers; how much was defendant’s liberty restricted), which is considered from the perspective of the person stopped; and (2) the justification for the officers’ actions, which is determined from the officers’ perspective. Here, the officers actions were intrusive—they drew their guns, forced the defendant to kneel, and handcuffed him. But this does not automatically convert an investigatory stop into an arrest that requires probable cause. The officers’ conduct was reasonable because defendant was the only person in the vicinity of the shooter’s reported location who fairly matched the 911 caller’s description and the 911 caller provided specific facts regarding the shooter’s clothing, height, and age. The officers had reason to believe defendant could be armed and dangerous, having possibly just committed a violent crime. Their concern for their safety justified the tactics they used to stabilize the situation before investigating further.

The officers had reasonable suspicion to stop defendant. Brief investigatory stops are permissible when officers have a particularized and objective basis to suspect a person of criminal activity. When evaluating investigatory stops resulting from telephone tips it must be determined whether the tips “exhibited sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop.” In Navarette v. California (2014) 134 S.Ct. 1683, the Court held an anonymous call provided reasonable suspicion for a stop because: (1) the caller claimed to be an eyewitness to dangerous activity; (2) the caller reported the event soon after it occurred; (3) the caller used the 911 system, which can be traced to origin, guarding against false reports; and (4) the caller created reasonable suspicion of an ongoing and dangerous crime—drunk driving. Similar to Navarette, here the caller used the 911 system, gave specific details regarding the shooter, had eyewitness knowledge of the shooting, and reported an ongoing emergency situation. This provided officers with reasonable suspicion to stop defendant.