Civil rights violation for terry stop thrown out

The 1st circuit court of appeals on February 9, 2010 in Klaucke v. Daly, No. 09-1222 dismissed a suit brought by a umass Amherst student against police regarding his stop and subsequent verification of his age as he carried alcohol.

The student, Jonathan Klaucke a 21 year old student was walking with friends on the way to a party when he was confronted by Officer Brian C. Daly, a police officer in Amherst, Massachusetts. Members of the group were openly carrying alcohol, and Daly appeared under the age of 21. When asked for their I.D.’s all the members of the group complied except Daly who apparently having taken some rudimentary course in law or relying on some other verified legal authority such as “some kid at a party said” advised the Officer he did not have to supply his identification and that the Officer should take his word for it. Officer Daly responded by again asking and advised him that he would simply arrest him and they “could figure it out during booking”. Daly produced the license and after a 2-8 minute time frame in which he also checked Daly for warrants sent them on their way.

Daly, filed suit in federal court on claims alleging violations of Klaucke’s Fourth Amendment rights brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.

On January 13, 2009, the district court issued a brief written opinion to the same effect. See Klaucke v. Daly, 592 F.Supp.2d 222 (D. Mass. 2009). In it, the court articulated the facts supporting its conclusion that Officer Daly had reasonable suspicion to believe that Klaucke was a minor in possession of alcohol at the time Daly demanded his identification. These facts were “the nature of the area in which [Klaucke’s group was] walking, . . . the time of day and particular holiday” and, “[o]f more importance [, ] . . . the fact that the individuals, especially Plaintiff, were of young appearance and three of the five were openly carrying alcoholic beverages.” Id. at 224. Final judgment was entered on the same day. Klaucke now appeals.

The appeals court stated “”When conducting a Terry stop, a police officer may briefly detain an individual for questioning if the officer has ‘reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity ‘may be afoot.”” Schubert v. City of Springfield, 589 F.3d 496, 501 (1st Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989)). “In determining whether a Terry stop is justified, our inquiry involves two steps, first, ‘whether the officer’s action was justified at its inception,’ and second, ‘whether it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.'” Id. (quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 20).

At the first step, “reasonable suspicion” requires the officer to have “‘a particularized and objective basis’ for suspecting the person stopped of criminal activity.” United States v. Wright, 582 F.3d 199, 205 (1st Cir. 2009) (quoting Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 696 (1996)). This basis must be “‘grounded in specific and articulable facts,'” and turns “not on what the officer himself believed but, rather, on what a reasonable officer in his position would have thought.” United States v. Espinoza, 490 F.3d 41, 47 (1st Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 229 (1985)).[2]

At the next step, we look to whether the officer’s investigative measures were reasonably calculated to uncover evidence of wrongdoing related to circumstances giving rise to the officer’s initial suspicions. See Terry, 392 U.S. at 20. There is no fixed guide to what police investigative measures are within the scope of a Terry stop; in all events, the touchstone is the reasonableness of the measures undertaken to quell or confirm the officer’s suspicions. See, e.g., Hiibel, 542 U.S. at 188-89.

In this case, we agree with the district court that the circumstances confronted by Officer Daly were more than sufficient to support a reasonable suspicion that Klaucke was a minor in possession of alcohol in violation of state law. Klaucke’s age and appearance more than justified the reasonable suspicion that he was under 21 years old. The district court found that Klaucke “had an unusually youthful appearance even for his age,” a determination well within its ken and supported by photographs of Klaucke appearing in the record.

Further, the circumstances confronted by Officer Daly at the time of the stop amply justified the reasonable suspicion that Klaucke was in possession of alcohol. Officer Daly was on patrol in an area well-known for undergraduate drinking. It was a Saturday night and, moreover, a holiday and time of year particularly associated with student partying. Cf. United States v. Ortiz, 422 U.S. 891, 897 (1975) (police officers may permissibly “draw reasonable inferences from [the] facts in light of their knowledge of the area and their prior experience”) . While these considerations may have been insufficient, without more, to arouse suspicion in the eyes of a reasonable officer, taken together with the undisputed fact that Klaucke was walking in a group in which his companions were openly carrying alcohol, we find that a reasonable officer standing in Officer Daly’s shoes could have suspected that the brown grocery bag Klaucke carried concealed alcoholic beverages.

Thus, we turn to whether the investigative measures undertaken by Officer Daly were reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that first aroused his suspicion. Officer Daly’s demand for identification, plainly, was reasonably related to his suspicion that Klaucke was underage. Under the circumstances of this case, the officer was not required to take Klaucke at his word that he was 21. Further, given Klaucke’s initial refusal to produce identification, it was not unreasonable for Officer Daly to quickly verify the license to confirm he had not been handed a fake. It is well-known that college students often have doctored IDs which list them as older than they are, just so they can drink.[3]

As for the warrant search, most circuits have held that an officer does not impermissibly expand the scope of a Terry stop by performing a background and warrant check, even where that search is unrelated to the circumstances that initially drew the officer’s attention. See, e.g., United States v. Kirksey, 485 F.3d 955, 957 (7th Cir. 2007) (explaining that when an individual “remains under suspicion for committing a crime, the officer can take a reasonable amount of time to check for outstanding warrants or criminal history, even if the initial justification for the stop had nothing to do with criminal history.” (citing United States v. Villagrana-Flores, 467 F.3d 1269, 1275-77 (10th Cir. 2006)); accord United States v. Cavitt, 550 F.3d 430, 437 (5th Cir. 2008) (traffic stop); United States v. Long, 532 F.3d 791, 795 (8th Cir. 2008); United States v. Rusher, 966 F.2d 868, 876-77 (4th Cir. 1992).

We need not address whether warrant checks are always permissible in the normal course of a Terry stop. Under the circumstances here, Klaucke’s refusal to produce a license that would have alleviated the officer’s stated concerns reasonably roused a suspicion that his non-cooperation was driven by other considerations, like an outstanding warrant for his arrest or other criminal history, such as a prior arrest for underage drinking. Cf. United States v. Sowers, 136 F.3d 24, 27 (1st Cir. 1998) (police officer’s “shift in focus” based on “unfolding events” in course of Terry stop was “neither unusual nor impermissible”) . It took less than eight minutes to perform both the license validity and warrant check. We hold that these brief actions were within the scope of conduct permissible under Terry.

Accordingly, on the undisputed facts, Klaucke has failed to show that Officer Daly violated any of his constitutional rights, and we therefore need not address independently the issue of qualified immunity. See, e.g., Holder v. Town of Sandown, 585 F.3d 500, 508 (1st Cir. 2009).“

Commentary,

The case has a lot of good information regarding a rudimentary “terry stop” and its requirements. The very basic premise of reasonable suspiscion and probable cause are also illustrated as questions can be asked 1. is it reasonable to ask for proof of identification of individuals who appear under the age of 21 and are in an area know for its high frequency of underage drinking? 2. If a youthful looking individual refuses to comply with the very common sense request for identification is it more probable than not they are either under the age of 21 or actively trrying to hide something related to their identity (IE warrants for arrest)?

Attorney Ronald. A. Sellon

About Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

Ronald A. Sellon is a licensed Attorney in the state of Massachusetts and U.S. District Court, Massachusetts as well as a Sergeant with a Municipal Police Department and U.S. military Veteran. Additionally, he has taught Criminal Procedure at the Massachusetts State Police Academy in New Braintree and has written a text on Criminal Procedure for police field training officer programs. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, was a 2008 recipient of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass C.O.P.) Presidents award and holds a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and a Juris Doctor Law Degree. Questions related to content material may be directed to RSellon@PoliceLegalPromotions.com
This entry was posted in Criminal Law & Procedure, General. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s