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United States v. Daniels.

No. 22-1378. 5/8/2024. D.Colo. Judge Seymour. Fourth Amendment—Fruit of an Unlawful Investigative Detention—Reasonable Suspicion—Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

May 8, 2024

Police received a call that three Black men in dark hoodies and jeans were intermittently taking guns in and out of their pockets and getting in and out of a dark SUV in an apartment complex parking lot. Responding officers encountered Daniels standing in the parking lot five to 10 feet away from the SUV. Officer Idler testified that as he approached, Daniels appeared to say something inaudible to the SUV, which then left the parking lot at a normal rate of speed. Officer Idler identified himself and ordered Daniels to put his hands up. Daniels immediately complied and was detained. Officer Idler acquired Daniels’s name, ran a criminal background check, and discovered he was a convicted felon. Other officers followed the SUV and eventually stopped it for running a red light. The officers then searched the SUV and found four firearms, one of which was a stolen 9mm Glock 17. Using Daniels’s name, law enforcement obtained a warrant for his DNA, and forensic DNA testing tied Daniels to the stolen Glock. A grand jury indicted Daniels for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Daniels moved to suppress his name as the fruit of an unlawful investigative detention, arguing the officers had no reasonable suspicion to detain him. The district court granted his motion.

On appeal, the government argued that the district court erroneously granted Daniels’s motion to suppress because Officer Idler had reasonable suspicion to detain him. The parties agree that Officer Idler detained Daniels for Fourth Amendment purposes. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit analyzed the totality of the circumstances to determine whether Officer Idler had reasonable suspicion that criminal activity occurred or was about to occur. Here, the parties and the district court agreed that there were four relevant factors and circumstances known to Officer Idler when he detained Daniels: (1) the 911 phone call and Computer Aided Dispatch notes, (2) the presence and actions of the dark SUV, (3) the time of Officer Idler’s encounter with Daniels, and (4) the location of their encounter. The government does not contend that the 911 call—which was generic and did not describe Daniels—was sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion, and the call’s reliability, even considered with the other facts of this case, is not determinative. Second, the SUV was one of several other similar vehicles in the parking lot that were driving or leaving the lot; no illegal conduct or firearms were seen; neither the SUV nor Daniels made any threatening or unusual movements; and the SUV appeared to be innocuously idling as Officer Idler approached. Therefore, neither the SUV’s nor Daniels’s presence or actions are sufficient alone to establish reasonable suspicion. Third, Officer Idler detained Daniels near midnight on the night of the Super Bowl game in a well-lit and heavily trafficked parking lot, which militates against finding reasonable suspicion because any actions taken by Daniels or the SUV’s occupants would be easily seen and quickly reported. Fourth, while the encounter occurred in a high-crime neighborhood, the simple fact of Daniels’s presence there is not enough to provide reasonable suspicion. Accordingly, the totality of the circumstances known by Officer Idler when he detained Daniels did not amount to reasonable suspicion. Therefore, Daniels’s detention was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and the district court’s grant of Daniels’s motion to suppress was proper.

The order was affirmed.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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