Thursday, June 06, 2019

U.S. v. Brown (9th Cir. - June 5, 2019)

I suspect that the Supreme Court will reverse this opinion.

An (essentially) anonymous tipster at a YWCA calls the police and says that there's an African-American man with dreadlocks, a camouflage jacket and red shoes carrying a gun.  The police promptly spot someone who looks just like that in the area, and follow him in their vehicle for a couple of blocks.  When they turn on their siren, the individual runs away from them.  The police catch him and discover the gun and some drugs.

The Ninth Circuit holds that the stop was impermissible.  Not enough reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop.

There's a lot in the opinion that makes sense; that having a gun is likely lawful in the state, that lots of innocent people (including, perhaps especially, minorities) distrust and may run from the police, etc.

But the standard for a Terry stop -- a "brief, investigative detention" -- is low.  And having a gun (in public, anyway) is a big deal, even if it might well be lawful in a number of circumstances.  Perhaps most importantly, running from the police is generally viewed as a big deal.  As a "flight" of some sort that may well suggest criminality.

I doubt that a majority of the Supreme Court would conclude as the panel does here.  And this may be precisely the type of case where the Court grants certiorari to spank down the "liberal" Ninth Circuit and it's "crazy" views about search-and-seizure jurisprudence.