So, How Much Do You Need for Reasonable Suspicion?

posted by Judge_Burke @ 15:30 PM
February 6, 2017

Officers don’t have to actually see drugs pass in an apparent hand-to-hand transaction in a high crime area to have reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion isn’t a certainty. United States v. Slaughter, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 569 (W.D.Ky. Jan. 4, 2017):

The R&R labels the officers’ observation as a hand-to-hand drug transaction. Both detectives at the suppression hearing testified, however, that they did not see drugs, or anything, being exchanged, but instead observed hand movements consistent with a hand-to-hand drug transaction. (R&R 13; Hr’g Tr. 28:7-11, 37:2-5, 43:14-16). Defendant emphasizes this fact in urging that reasonable suspicion is lacking, but his argument misses the [*10] mark, as a finding of reasonable suspicion does not require certainty, and the appearance of criminal activity is enough to give rise to reasonable suspicion. See Flores, 571 F.3d at 545. Thus, the fact that the detectives did not observe what was handed to Defendant is not determinative. The detectives witnessed Scott reach into his pocket and then place his hand inside of Defendant’s car window, actions that lead the detectives to believe a drug transaction was occurring, an activity with which they are familiar through their law enforcement experience. (Hr’g Tr. 29:3-8, 37:2-5, 39:4-6, 43:14-16); see Paulette, 457 F.3d at 606 (“[T]he officers had a reasonable suspicion that [the defendant] was engaged in criminal activity based upon his hand movements consistent with drug-dealing activity, efforts to evade the police upon noticing them, and presence in a high crime area.” (citation omitted)) Therefore, the hand movements coupled with the fact that Defendant was in a high crime area would support the reasonable belief that criminal activity was occurring and thus, the officers had reasonable suspicion to seize Defendant.


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