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Search & Seizure – Housing Complex Detention – Trespasser

A defendant who acknowledged he was not allowed on the property at a housing complex, and who was detained while police checked for outstanding warrants, was not illegally detained and the court did not err in declining to suppress cocaine found in defendant’s pocket after handcuffing him when they feared he would flee; the Court of Appeals upholds denial of defendant’s motion to suppress.

During the consensual encounter, defendant acknowledged he did not live at the residence and that he was not authorized to be on the complex property. Based on those facts, the officer possessed reasonable articulable suspicion defendant was trespassing and was entitled to detain defendant to confirm or dispel his suspicion. Such an investigation would necessarily include the verification of defendant’s identity and a determination of whether he was barred from the premises.

We disagree with defendant’s contention that the subsequent use of handcuffs transformed the detention into an illegal arrest. Defendant exhibited nervous behavior and took steps away from the officer in a manner suggesting an intention to flee.

Defendant again stepped back when the officer asked him about the contents of the one pocket defendant had tried to avoid emptying. The area was known for a high incidence of violence, crime and drug activity. Considering defendant’s admission that he was not authorized to be on the property, police had probable cause to arrest defendant for trespassing. Under these circumstances it was reasonable for the officer to place defendant in handcuffs while the officers determined his arrest warrant and barment status. We find nothing improper about the seizure in this case. Nor do we conclude the ensuing search of defendant’s pocket was unlawful.

Bass v. Commonwealth (Annunziata, J.) No. 0304-08-2, Jan. 20, 2009; Richmond Cir.Ct. (Cavedo) Karen L. Stallard, AD, for appellant; Joanne V. Frye, AAG, for appellee. VLW 009-7-018(UP), 7pp.

VLW 009-7-018

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