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Circumstances justified ‘Terry’ pat-down

Where appellant and his companion both told police after a Terry stop that they were armed, pat-down searches for weapons were justified. Appellant’s motion to suppress a pipe with suspected methamphetamine residue found in his pocket was correctly denied.

Relevant law

“‘The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. … An officer may not automatically conduct a search for weapons during the course of a Terry stop.’ … see Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27 (1968).

“However, an officer ‘may frisk the driver and passengers for weapons if he develops reasonable suspicion during the traffic or Terry stop to believe the particular person to be frisked is armed and dangerous’ …

“‘Such reasonable, individualized suspicion is required even in high crime areas, where any given individual may be armed.’ …

“An officer may lawfully pat-down a suspect only when the officer can ‘point to particular facts from which he reasonably inferred that the individual was armed and dangerous.’ …

“The relevant circumstances in this analysis include: ‘the characteristics of the area surrounding the stop, the time of the stop, the specific conduct of the suspect individual, the character of the offense under suspicion, and the unique perspective of a police officer trained and experienced in the detection of crime.’”

Application

“Here, the trial court noted: (1) the stop took place at 3:30 a.m.; (2) it was snowing; (3) the nature of the ‘high crime area’; (4) the offense being investigated involved a stolen vehicle; and (5) the experience of both officers.

“The trial court agreed that, under the totality of the circumstances, these facts alone would not be sufficient for the pat down. However, the trial court found compelling that the woman driving the stolen red Nissan Frontier had indicated that she was armed prior to Drier’s pat down.

“Coupled with Drier’s admission, before the pat down began, that he was armed, the trial court found Officer Cashdollar had reasonable suspicion for the pat down.

“We agree with the trial court that, under the totality of the circumstances, Officer Cashdollar reasonably inferred that Drier may be armed and was justified in performing the pat down to ensure his safety. …

“The facts reveal that Drier was not subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure. The trial court did not err in denying Drier’s motion to suppress.”

Affirmed.

Drier v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0030-22-1, Dec. 13, 2022. CAV unpublished opinion (White). From the Circuit Court of the City of Virginia Beach (Frucci). Roger A. Whitus for appellant. Matthew P. Dullaghan, Jason S. Miyares for appellee. VLW 022-7-577, 4 pp.

VLW 022-7-577

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