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Search & Seizure – Traffic Stop – Shots Fired Report – Terry Limits

A trial court erred in suppressing a gun defendant had in his right front pocket when police stopped him on a tip that a shooting suspect had left an IHOP in a “dark colored Dodge Durango,” and the Court of Appeals reverses that order and remands the case.

Within three minutes of receiving the dispatch, the officer observed a vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle moving at a high rate of speed, well in excess of the speed limit, in the area where shots had been fired. As the officer followed the vehicle, he received a report that its registration had expired.

Based on these facts, we conclude, as did the trial court, that the vehicle’s matching description and proximity to the shooting, as well as its driver’s observed traffic offenses, provided a valid basis for the officer stopping the Durango driven by defendant.

However, we agree with the commonwealth that the trial court erred in finding that the manner in which defendant was stopped, commanded to exit his vehicle at gunpoint and handcuffed exceed the bounds of Terry v. Ohio.

The fact that the firearm was discovered by the officer after asking defendant if he possessed a weapon does not alter our analysis. The trial court ruling, not objected to by defendant nor assigned as cross-error, that the firearm would have been admissible under the inevitable discovery doctrine, despite failure to give Miranda warnings, is the law of the case and binding on us on appeal.

Reversed and remanded.

Commonwealth v. Hairston (Felton, J.) No. 0091-10-3, Aug. 17, 2010; Danville Cir.Ct. (Melesco) Benjamin H. Katz, AAG, for appellee; Joe Garrett for appellee. VLW 010-7-331(UP), 8 pp.

VLW 010-7-331

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