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Stop Upheld On Officers’ ‘Collective Knowledge’

The Court of Appeals applies the “col­lective knowledge” doctrine to uphold the stop of a vehicle in North Carolina, based on reasonable articulable suspicion devel­oped by a Richmond police detective who had determined that the vehicle had been in the area of a Richmond jewelry store at the time of a robbery and homicide and probable occupants of the vehicle had been observed loading the vehicle with bags and boxes; the Richmond detective did not vio­late defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights by relaying the information through anoth­er officer to the North Carolina officer.

The “collective knowledge” doctrine, dis­cussed in dicta in Whiteley v. Warden, 401 U.S. 560 (1971), indicated that an officer could stop an individual based upon prob­able cause determinations made by other law enforcement officers. The Supreme Court further developed this principle in the context of reasonable suspicion in U.S. v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221 (1983). These two decisions support the premise that where an officer’s action is directed by another of­ficer, that action is proper as long as the di­recting officer has the requisite knowledge to justify the action under the appropriate legal standard.

Many federal circuit courts have ad­dressed the collective knowledge doctrine and its rationale, including the 4th Circuit, in U.S. v. Massenburg, 654 F.3d 480 (4th Cir. 2011). Although this court has not pre­viously adopted the collective knowledge doctrine, we find the principle derived from Whiteley, Hensley and Massenburg – that an officer is justified in acting upon an instruction from another officer if the in­structing officer had sufficient information to justify taking such action himself – is ap­plicable in this case. We find that this prin­ciple both protects the Fourth Amendment privacy interest and recognizes important modern-day law enforcement realities.

Application of doctrine

There are two crucial questions we must address. First, did the officer directing the stop have the requisite legal knowledge to stop the vehicle? And second, who was the instructing officer? Here, we find that Detective Gouldman possessed the reason­able articulable suspicion to effect the stop. Contrary to defendant’s assertion, we find Gouldman was the instructing officer.

Detective Gouldman, through his inves­tigation, developed information placing the Dodge Durango in the area of Victoria Jewelers at the time of the robbery and ho­micide. Henrico Detective Henry informed Gouldman that the Durango was in the vi­cinity of the crime scene at 2:30 p.m. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch surveillance video, Gouldman was able to match by their clothing two individuals from both the incident at the bank near the Jewelers and the alley between Grace and Broad Streets, behind Victoria Jewelers. The surveillance footage, with a time stamp of 2:52 p.m., showed these individuals and two men in dark clothing loading large items, bags and boxes into a Dodge Duran­go. The store’s owner stated he last spoke with decedent employee at 2:44 p.m. It was not until all of these facts were known to Gouldman that he requested the stop of the Durango. Gouldman possessed more than a suspicion or hunch of possible criminal activity. Based on the totality of the circum­stances, we hold that Gouldman possessed a reasonable articulable suspicion that the vehicle and/or its occupants were involved in, or had recently been involved in, crimi­nal activity.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Konig, who had the Durango under surveillance in North Carolina, was little more than a conduit or “go between” transmitting information to the Roanoke Rapids police to effect the stop. Gouldman was the instructing officer in this case. He requested that Konig ask local law enforcement to stop the Durango and identify the occupants. Like the officer who issued the flyer in Hensley, Gouldman was the officer who initially developed the reasonable suspi­cion for the stop. Therefore, it is Gould­man’s knowledge that the court must examine to determine whether the requi­site knowledge for reasonable suspicion existed at the time of the stop. We find that Gouldman possessed the required knowledge.

We hold that the collective knowledge doctrine applies in this matter and the stop did not violate the Fourth Amend­ment. The trial court did not err in deny­ing the motion to suppress.

Convictions of murder, robbery, conspir­acy and firearms offenses are affirmed.

Edmond v. Commonwealth (Malveaux) No. 0557-15-2, Aug. 2, 2016; Richmond Cir.Ct. (Snukals) Jennifer M. Newman for appellant; Benjamin H. Katz, AAG, for ap­pellee. VLW 016-7-188, 14 pp.


VLW 016-7-188

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