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Thread: US v Dudley

  1. #1
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    Big thanks to smn for finding the case for me... I had all but given up. Apparently FindLaw has reduced their database to only show cases from 2000 on. (Or they just changed the search functions and I'm too stupid to figure it out... which is the more likely situation.)

    I decided to make this a new thread so the case is at the top of the thread, rather than buried 3 pages deep on the US v Ubiles thread. (PDF attached)

    For those with a short attention span, I'll summarize the case here:

    The Dudleys broke down at a truck stop in Indiana while travelling through the state. With permission from the management, they set up camp in their truck while trying to repair it. To raise funds, they were selling off some of their belongings. Someone called police to report they saw guns in the couple's truck.

    Three officers responded, but the first officer approached alone. Officer Martin questioned the couple. Mr. Dudley produced two pellet rifles from the back of the truck. Dissatisfied, Martin proceeded to further question Dudley and proceeded to walk to the open driver's door to the truck.

    About this time, Officer Lamb arrived. He found Mrs. Dudley holding a pellet rifle at the rear of the truck while Martin & Dudley were at the front. He proceeded to reach for his gun and order her to drop the weapon. She complied, and was ordered to sit on the ground.

    Meanwhile, at the front of the truck, Martin continued to question Dudley. At some point, he simultaneously reached through the open truck door, held Dudley away with one arm, pulled the driver seat forward, and contemporously asked for permission to search. (Of course, Martin contends he was granted permission first, but the court found his testimony to be unreliable for several reasons, including: inconsistancies between his testimony and the dispatch log about the original call, his testimony that he had called for backup, and the fact that Lamb "curiously" didn't testify to corroborate the story.) Behind the seat, Martin found a sawwed-off 12-guage shotgun. Reaching through the rear window (into the camper shell), he retrieved a ammo belt containing 20-guage shells, among other ammo. (Martin claimed the shotgun was partially visible, but the defense proved that would have been impossible considering the layout of the seat and speaker box behind the seat. The court decided that the gun must then have been concealed from plain view.)

    About this time, Officer Carmichael arrived. Lamb placed Dudley under arrest for possession of a short-barrelled shotgun. The officers then pressed Mrs Dudley to tell them where the other shotgun was (correctly deducing the existance of one by the ammo possessed). After some interrogation, she admitted there was another gun. (The officers testified that they allowed Mrs Dudley to enter the camper shell in order to retrieve the loaded shotgun. Mrs Dudley claims Carmichael entered the camper and retrieved the shotgun. The court didn't beleive officers would allow a suspect to retrieve the gun, so Mrs Dudley's version was believed. This is significant in that it is another warrantless search.) The second sawwed-off shotgun was confiscated, and Mrs Dudley was then arrested.

    The officers went on to perform an impound vehicle inventory. The court noted that the officers all admit to not noting any of the items, let alone having pen & paper handy to inventory the items. So, they were just doing some curious rummaging. (They did make a video record of the possessions the next day at the impound lot.) During this rummaging, they came across 3 pipe bombs.

    Oh, and did I mention the Dudleys are both convicted felons? So they shouldn't have even had any gun in the first place...

    The court held that the initial contact was not consentual, and was not legal, as there was no reason to suspect the subjects were involved in criminal activity simply by having firearms in their vehicle. The court further held that since the initial contact did not meet the standards set forth in Terry & Michigan v Long, all the evidence had to be supressed.

    The court makes a point of noting that even if the Dudleys had consented to a search, the mere show of force/authority by the officers would have invalidated the search. Essentially, if the initial contact is illegal, even otherwise lawfully gathered evidence may be supressed.
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  2. #2
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    My analysis:

    I think this case is very useful to us when it comes to "reasonable suspicion" & the infamous "man with a gun" call.

    In the Dudley case, the officers were responding to a report of people with guns in the vehicle. The officers conducted what the court found to amount to a Terry stop in response. Here's the gist of what the court had to say about that (bold is my emphasis):

    Martin's impetus to investigate the Dudleys was a radio call alerting him to the presence of two people at the truck stop in possession of some guns. Of course the possession of firearms is not, generally speaking, a crime unless you happen to be a convicted felon, the firearms are otherwise illegal, or you are not licensed to possess the gun. Martin, presumably not clairvoyant, could not have known, and did not know, the Dudleys and their guns met all three of these criteria. In fact he testified he had absolutely no knowledge, or suspicion, that the Dudleys were engaged in any criminal activity until he discovered the first sawed-off shotgun. A telephone report of citizens possessing guns or merely engaging in "suspicious" activity, standing alone, cannot amount to reasonable suspicion of crime. Packer, 15 F.3d at 658 (telephone tip about suspicious vehicle "lacked the minimal detail of information that would point to any arguably particularized suspicion of criminal conduct.")...

    ...Agreed, the sight of the Dudleys' truck, overloaded with goods and converted into a camper, together with a report of guns is somewhat odd; but some mere "inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or 'hunch', id., without more, is simply not enough to justify an investigatory stop...
    ...And, if the stop itself is unlawful, neither Terry nor Michigan v. Long authorize the police to search the suspects or the suspect's vehicle for weapons, even if the officers reasonably fear for their safety.
    In this case, two felons got away with several federal crimes because of abuse of power on the parts of the officers. It is important to note that the court supressed ALL evidence and statements gathered because it was all derived from an unconstitutional seizure of the Dudleys' persons. This included Mrs. Dudley's admission to possession and consent to the officers to search for the second shotgun.

    The court explains that supression of evidence is not to punish the officers, but to protect the rights of the citizens by detering the behavior by the officers.

    I think this case is not only a handy citation, but also a good warning to our peace officers. Especially in light of the recent Arizona v Gant decision, it is important to remind our officers to do the job properly. If they don't, bad peole will get away with bad things.
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  3. #3
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    WOW thats a lot of great information. Thanks! I know the pain of having to read thru page after page of legal documents....

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    CA_Libertarian wrote:
    ...And, if the stop itself is unlawful, neither Terry nor Michigan v. Long authorize the police to search the suspects or the suspect's vehicle for weapons, even if the officers reasonably fear for their safety.



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    ConditionThree wrote:
    CA_Libertarian wrote:
    ...And, if the stop itself is unlawful, neither Terry nor Michigan v. Long authorize the police to search the suspects or the suspect's vehicle for weapons, even if the officers reasonably fear for their safety.




    And theres your sign....
    Boy, I sure don't have ANY problem with the court's point of view. Police power MUST be kept in check and if the officers cannot or will not follow the law then the charges must be struck down.

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