M.D.Ga.: A stop based on a mere hunch of wrongdoing is suppressed

Defendants’ stop is found to be based on a hunch and not reasonable suspicion founded on facts. The purported tip is found to be a pretext for the stop. United States v. Hall, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18088 (M.D. Ga. Feb. 5, 2019)*:

Lieutenant Picciotti’s testimony provides no further insight into any alleged tip received by law enforcement concerning drug related activity at this particular residence prior to the detention of Defendant and appears to be nothing more than a pretext for making the stop. The only information Picciotti offered about any tip relates to casual interactions he had with several local drunks about generalized drug activity in the area. (Doc. 28, p. 13). But a tip from an informant must exhibit “sufficient indicia of reliability to provide reasonable suspicion to make the investigatory stop.” Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 327, 110 S. Ct. 2412, 110 L. Ed. 2d 301 (1990); see also United States v. Kent, 691 F.2d 1376, 1380 (11th Cir. 1982) (“A known, albeit unproven, informant coupled with subsequent corroboration of the tip’s details can justify a reasonable suspicion of criminality.”). Lieutenant Picciotti provided no evidence regarding the source of the tip or the specific nature of the tip, nor did he testify about any verification of the tip through independent investigation. Without more, the Court cannot find that any alleged tip provided objectively reasonable suspicion for the initial stop.

In short, it is apparent that when Lieutenant Picciotti made the call to turn into the driveway and to approach the two shadows he observed from the road he was acting on a “hunch” that these individuals may be engaged in drug related activity. Based on a totality of the circumstances, it is clear to the Court that the law enforcement officers were engaged in a generalized investigation and lacked “a particularized and objective basis for suspecting legal wrongdoing” on the part of Defendant. Arvizu, 534 U.S. at 273. Consequently, the later discovery of narcotics and a firearm were fruits of an unconstitutional detention and are subject to suppression. Defendant’s motion to suppress is therefore GRANTED.

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