Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Opinion Digests / Criminal Law / Evidence properly admitted in weapons prosecution

Evidence properly admitted in weapons prosecution

Where appellant was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted violent felon and carrying a concealed weapon, the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they approached his vehicle, which was parked in the middle of the road with its lights on, the engine running, the passenger door slightly open and the appellant asleep in the driver’s seat.

Appellant Davis’ motion to suppress a handgun found on his person after the police asked him to leave the car was properly denied.

Reasonable suspicion

“‘[A] traffic stop for a suspected violation of law is a “seizure” of the occupants of the vehicle and therefore must be conducted in accordance with the Fourth Amendment.’ … ‘To justify a traffic stop, officers need only reasonable suspicion,’ namely, ‘a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped’ [was] breaking the law or in need of assistance.”

“‘[T]he relevant inquiry’ in assessing reasonable suspicion ‘is not whether particular conduct is “innocent” or “guilty,” but the degree of suspicion that attaches to particular types of noncriminal acts.’”

Peculiar circumstances

“In this case, when the officers arrived at the scene of an unrelated accident in the early hours of the morning, they found a car parked in the ‘dead center of the road’ with the engine running, the lights on, and the passenger door ajar.

“Confronted with such peculiar circumstances, the officers reasonably could have suspected that Davis was in distress, as the trial court found. …

“Furthermore, there was reasonable suspicion that Davis might have been violating traffic safety laws by parking his car in the middle of a street late at night.

“Under either rationale, it was reasonable for the officers to approach Davis’s car and investigate further.

“When the officers approached the car, they found Davis asleep in the driver’s seat of a running vehicle. Once awakened, Davis was disoriented and lethargic; his eyes were watery and glassy.

“When asked if he had been drinking, Davis gave conflicting answers in quick succession. Given the circumstances, and based on his training and experience, [Officer] Henry suspected Davis was operating the car under the influence of alcohol, and therefore asked him to exit. …

“Davis was seized when the officers directed him to get out of the car. When viewed objectively through the eyes of trained law enforcement officers, that seizure was supported by the reasonable suspicion that Davis might be breaking the law.

“Thus, Davis was lawfully detained when Smith saw the firearm in plain view in Davis’s pocket as he got out of the car.”


Davis v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0578-21-1, May 17, 2022. CAV (AtLee) From the Circuit Court of the City of Chesapeake (Brown, trial judge; Miyares presiding on motion to suppress). Erik A. Mussoni for appellant. Leah A. Darron for appellee. VLW 022-7-148, 7 pp. Unpublished opinion.

VLW 022-7-148

Virginia Lawyers Weekly