A very interesting decision [PDF] has been handed down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. It not only addresses what constitutes exigent circumstances, but also attacks predictive policing as nothing more than a tool law enforcement uses to enforce a racist status quo.
The decision is long. It has four(!) concurrences and two dissents. Three of the concurrences attack the dissent written by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, who believes not giving the government what it asked for blunts officers’ ability to police high-crime areas.
Here’s the Appeals Court’s final ruling, which details the events leading to this challenge, as well as its outcome.
This appeal presents the question of whether the Fourth Amendment’s exigent circumstances doctrine justified the suspicionless seizure of Defendant-Appellee Billy Curry, Jr. The police seized Curry after responding to several gunshots that were fired in or near an apartment complex less than a minute earlier. When the police arrived, they encountered five to eight men—including Curry—calmly and separately walking in a public area behind the complex, away from the general vicinity of where the officers believed the shots originated; several other people, likely visitors or residents, standing around closer to the apartments; and another man walking toward the rear of the officers’ patrol car, who appeared to be favoring one of his arms.
The district court held that exigent circumstances did not justify the suspicionless, investigatory stop of Curry, and so it granted his motion to suppress a firearm and other evidence based on the unreasonableness of the seizure that led to its discovery. We agree with the district court’s conclusion. To hold otherwise would create a sweeping exception to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).