E.D.Va.: Unreasonableness of pulling firearm during stop not causally connected to finding of drugs

The officer’s alleged excessive force in allegedly unnecessarily pulling his service weapon during defendant’s stop is not causally connected to the finding of the drugs (see Hudson), so the exclusionary rule does not apply. United States v. Coe, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162834 (E.D. Va. Sep. 13, 2023):

Applying the above [Hudson] framework to this case, the first step is identifying the interest(s) protected by the relevant constitutional guarantee. See id. at 592. Here, the Defendant has challenged not the level of suspicion, but just the level of force utilized by Officer Walker—i.e., the manner in which he was seized. (Def.’s Mot. 6-7.) More specifically, Defendant has alleged that Officer Walker employed excessive force while seizing him, rendering the seizure unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. (Id.) The interest in question, then, is the Fourth Amendment right to be seized in a reasonable manner. See, e.g., Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394-96, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (noting that where excessive force claims arise in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop, they are properly characterized as Fourth Amendment protections because “the Fourth Amendment … guarantees citizens the right ‘to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable … seizures’ of the person.”). In turn, determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment “requires a careful balancing of ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ against the countervailing governmental interests at stake.” Id. at 396. This balancing involves consideration of such things as the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id.; see also Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 8-9, 105 S. Ct. 1694, 85 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1985).

Setting aside the reasonableness inquiry for now, the second portion of the exclusionary rule analysis turns to consider (1) whether the evidence obtained derives from or is related to the alleged constitutional violation, and (2) whether suppressing the evidence obtained would actually serve the underlying constitutional protection. See Hudson, 547 U.S. at 592; Segura, 468 U.S. at 796, 799-801, 804-05. A review of the present facts reveals that both of these questions are answered in the negative.

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