If Your Pat-Down Search Was Illegal, That May Entitle You to Suppression of Evidence in Your Maryland Criminal Trial

Most police officers are ethical people who try to uphold the law within the confines of the rules that the constitution and the law have created. However, whether an officer is a “good” cop or a “bad” cop, the officer has the potential to make mistakes, to go outside the boundaries of the law and to engage in conduct that violates a person’s constitutional rights.

When that happens and an arrest results, the accused person has certain rights. This includes things like having the unconstitutionally acquired item(s) excluded from the evidence that a jury may consider at trial. Getting that item or items excluded, which may be the difference between acquittal and conviction, often requires a detailed knowledge of the law and of courtroom procedural rules. For that and for the overall advocacy you need, be sure you have an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney working for you.

What does this type of constitutional violation look like? T.T.’s case is a good example. Officers K.S. and J.Z., using an unmarked car, were patrolling a particularly high drug-crime area in Baltimore on New Year’s Day in 2017. As they patrolled, they spotted a silver Cadillac parked illegally (it was pointed the wrong way.) They turned on the police car’s lights and approached the occupant.

The occupant, T.T., was, by all accounts, “laid back” and cooperative with the police. Nevertheless, based on some alleged furtive movements where T.T. moved his hands near his waist, the officers ordered T.T. out of the car and performed a pat-down search. During the search, T.T. ran away. Officer J.Z. tackled him and a gun fell out. Note that, until the officer began his search, the police had reasonably suspicion of nothing more than T.T. being the owner of an illegally parked vehicle.

After the gun fell out, the state charged him with weapons crimes. Some of those crimes came with significant mandatory minimum sentences if T.T. was found guilty. Of course, without the gun, the state had no case. The defense, realizing this, asked the court to exclude the gun from evidence in the trial. The defense made the strong argument that, when the police ordered T.T. out of the car and began the pat-down search, they didn’t have the sort of reasonable suspicion the law requires in order to a frisk a person.

The police officers claimed that T.T. engaged in furtive movements consistent with being armed. Furtive movements can sometimes be enough to allow the police to frisk a person, but those kinds of movements are things like a drug suspect frantically shoving things in his pockets. An occupant of an illegally parked car shifting his weight around while answering the police’s questions generally isn’t that kind of furtive movement. T.T. could have been nervous and fidgety (as he was alone and surrounded by three police officers.) He could have been shifting his weight because two different officers, standing outside two different of his car windows, were each questioning him (and he may have shifted weight as he addressed each officer.)

In other words, there were several possible innocent explanations for T.T.’s movements. When that’s the case, the police aren’t allowed to haul you out of your car and frisk when all you’ve done is park your car pointed in the wrong direction.

We are all entitled to certain rights and freedoms in Maryland. When the police violate those rights to acquire evidence against you, the prosecution is not entitled to benefit from the items acquired as a result of that unconstitutional conduct. To make sure you have a defense that fully exercises all of your rights, retain knowledgeable Maryland drug crime attorney Anthony A. Fatemi, who has been diligently representing the accused in Maryland for many years. To learn more, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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