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Search OK in ‘man with gun’ case

“Just showing up” is 80 percent of the formula for success in life, we’re told.

Indeed, “just showing up” may be all it takes to become a successful police informant, if one reads a dissent in a gun case released yesterday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Here’s how the car-search scenario played out in U.S. v. Griffin.

Police respond to a “man with a gun” call from a Charlotte, N.C., Value-Lodge Motel, known for drugs and violence. In a face-to-face conversation with an officer, the motel occupant “informant” IDs defendant, driving away in a white Cadillac, as the guy with the gun. One officer stays with the informant and a second officer stops the Caddy about 50 feet away. When the guy looked like he was about to leave, the officer frisked him, cuffed him and put him in the patrol car. In a protective sweep of the car, the officer finds a pistol on the driver’s side floorboard. The 4th Circuit majority upholds the convicted felon’s firearm conviction.

But Judge Roger Gregory’s dissent says the majority opinion “leaves us teetering on the brink of a per se rule that any face-to-face dialogue between the police and an informant, however scant, is sufficient to create the reasonable suspicion necessary for a Terry stop in a ‘man with a gun’ case.”

It appears that, in the increasingly “virtual” world we inhabit, a face-to-face encounter can be a powerful experience.
By Deborah Elkins


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