United States v. Thomas, No. 20-10757 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm and upheld the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a firearm discovered during a stop and frisk. The court concluded that reasonable suspicion supported the stop and frisk where defendant was encountered in a high-crime area, and in light of defendant's connection to the stolen vehicle and his interaction with others in and around the vehicle. In this case, the officers were reasonable in suspecting that at least some of the people around and inside the vehicle had been involved in the aggravated robbery. Furthermore, the officers' need to proceed cautiously was obvious in light of them being outnumbered and unable to secure all six people because they had only four sets of handcuffs.
The court also concluded that defendant's detention did not exceed the permissible scope of the investigatory stop where the officers' actions were reasonable under the circumstances and the stop was not converted into an arrest prior to defendant being frisked. Finally, the court concluded that the police department's local policy does not affect the constitutionality of the officers' conduct.