United States v. Evans, No. 15-1827 (8th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Defendant appealed his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm that was seized from his parked car without a warrant during a late night investigation of possible criminal activity. The court agreed with the district court that the officer had reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot when he pulled in behind the vehicle - parked in an abandoned carwash parking lot late at night with its lights on - to investigate what the car’s occupants might be doing in this high-crime area; when the officer saw defendant, a known felon, standing by another car in the dark carwash bay, he reasonably believed that he was in a dangerous situation; the officer's reasonable concern for safety justified his entering an open bay in an abandoned carwash to see whether other persons were hiding in a car where a dangerous suspect was seen engaging in suspicious activity; having justifiably entered the carwash bay, the officer's action in shining his flashlight to illuminate the interior of defendant's car did not violate the Fourth Amendment; and the marijuana and firearm were in plain view. Therefore, because there was no unlawful search and seizure of contraband seen in plain view in defendant's car, his contention that other evidence should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree necessarily fails. The court also concluded that defendant's claim that the magistrate should have recused herself was not preserved for review. Finally, the court rejected defendant's jury challenge and affirmed the judgment in its entirety.