Under both Washington and Federal law, people are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. This means, in part, that the police cannot detain or interrogate people without a warrant, with few exceptions. One such exception is the Terry stop, which is an investigatory stop conducted due to a suspicion that a person is engaged in criminal activity. The scope of the Terry stop exception is narrow, though, and searches that fall outside of the scope may constitute custodial arrests without a warrant in violation of constitutional rights. The standards for reviewing the nature of a stop were recently explained by a Washington court, in an opinion issued in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for unlawful possession of firearms. If you are charged with a weapons offense, it is smart to consult a Washington weapons charges defense lawyer to assess whether your rights were violated.
The Defendant’s Stop
It is reported that the defendant was driving his vehicle when an officer recognized him and followed him to a nearby restaurant parking lot. The officer was aware that there was a warrant out for the defendant’s arrest and that he was a convicted felon. The officer, along with two other officers, tackled the defendant inside of the restaurant, held him down and handcuffed him. They then advised him that he was under arrest for a felony crime. One of the officers then questioned the defendant, who admitted he had a gun.
Allegedly, the officer located the weapon, and the defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He moved to suppress the handgun found during the search, arguing the police did not have the lawful authority to search and detain him. the court denied his motion, finding that the Terry stop exception applied, and the defendant appealed. Continue reading