Black man resists conviction arguing running from police gives police no reasonable suspicion to stop and search in 2022

A black Maryland man sentenced to 10 years in prison on a gun charge is asking state courts to overturn his conviction, claiming police violated his constitutional rights and had no legal basis to prosecute him when he was found guilty fled from a street corner in Baltimore when he saw a squad car.

Prosecutors argued that police had the right to search 24-year-old Tyrie Washington because he fled to a “high crime” area, which gave investigators reasonable suspicions of criminal activity. Washington said he feared for his safety when he saw Baltimore City police in July 2020, given the relationship between law enforcement and black men unfolding in his city with the police killing of Freddie Gray and just months earlier The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police had proved volatile across the country.

Protesters march with George Floyd signs during the 57th Annual March on Washington on Friday, August 28, 2020 in Washington, DC (Photo by Erin Lefevre/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“The idea that in 2022 it’s a reasonable conclusion that fleeing the police means you’re involved in criminal activity — that just doesn’t hold up anymore,” Washington Defense Attorney Claire Rasin Caplan told the Atlanta Black Star.

Baltimore City detectives said they were patrolling a street in a northwest Baltimore neighborhood in a marked police vehicle when they noticed Washington and another man standing in an alley. When the two men saw the officers, they ran away, Atlanta Black Star court documents show. Detectives caught up with Washington after he fell while trying to scale a fence. As a detective handcuffed the man, another detective frisked him and found a pistol in his waistband.

Washington was charged with carrying and carrying a loaded handgun, among other charges. He asked for a conditional guilty plea and appealed. Caplan said the stop violated his Fourth Amendment rights and rights under Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.

The Fourth Amendment protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Caplan argued that the court should consider broader protections from search and seizure that Washington had under the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Article 26 requires a search warrant specific to a person, place or thing for a search.

Baltimore City detective Darwin Noesi told the court that he and his partner were “driving around and checking the area” with “large quantities.”[s] of individuals who sell and distribute narcotics.” Because of the prevalence of “homicides and robberies,” he was ordered to “pay special attention” to the neighborhood, and it was routine for the department to “show their presence.”

Another detective involved in Washington’s arrest told the court he had “a few homicide shootings and robberies in the area” and “seized about 10 to 15 handguns in that one block alone over a three month period.”

A three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland said if they overturned Washington’s conviction, they would be ignoring the US Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Illinois v. Warlow. It found that it was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment to stop someone who fled “if they saw police officers patrolling an area known for heavy drug trafficking.”

However, the defense argued that given “widespread discrimination in policing,” Warlow’s opinion was outdated. Caplan told the Atlanta Black Star the Supreme Court had some discussions before concluding the opinion on “completely innocent reasons for fleeing police, including fear of police.”

“I just think that in 2022, with all the exposure everyone is having to reports of police violence, police brutality, and even the proliferation of cellphone video, actually facing these violent and sometimes fatal incidents, fear is at an all-time high, and especially if you are a young black man who knows you are a disproportionate victim of this police brutality,” Caplan said.

“It’s incredibly reasonable to fear the police in Baltimore City,” where the force “is notorious for violence and corruption, often against young black men,” she added.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Baltimore City Police Department “follows a pattern or practice” of “employing enforcement strategies that result in serious and unwarranted disparities in the stops, searches and arrests of African Americans.”

Mural of the late Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland

Defense attorneys also point to Gray’s death, for which the city and the Gun Trace Task Force, a corrupt Baltimore City police force, agreed to a $3.5 million settlement in April. Its members “had conducted illegal searches, planted evidence such as guns and drugs, committed robberies, lied on sworn documents, and brutally beat, shot, and even killed people, all under the guise of law enforcement.”

However, the Court of Appeals upheld Washington’s conviction. Now a senior appeals court has agreed to hear the dispute beginning in November.

In his motion for the Circuit Court of Appeals to deny the review, Maryland Assistant Attorney General Andrew J. DiMiceli argued that in 2017 the state Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Article 26 was an extension of the Fourth Amendment. Besides, the Warlow decision still stands.

“Washington’s innocent flight argument is no more relevant today than it was when Wardlow was ruled in 2000,” DiMiceli wrote. “It’s still reasonable to conclude that an unprovoked, headless run from the police in a high-crime area can be an indication of criminal misconduct.”

Brandon Hasbrouck, associate law professor at Washington and Lee University, said that in addition to Article 26, the Maryland Constitution contains other limitations on police powers.

Article 24 of the state’s Bill of Rights states:

“No one should be kidnapped or imprisoned or deprived of his property, liberties or privileges or ostracized or banished or in any way destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty or property except by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the country .”

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Baltimore City Police Department “employs a pattern or practice” of “employing enforcement strategies that result in serious and unwarranted disparities in the stops, searches and arrests of African Americans.” (Photo/Getty Images)

“It is important to remember that the Supreme Court’s pro-police criminal justice decisions are not the source of police power. You can only say what the Federal Constitution does not prohibit. The real source of police power is the states.” Hasbrouck told the Atlanta Black Star. “So it’s worth asking the Maryland courts to reconsider whether their constitution supports the Supreme Court’s understanding that police can use a person’s decision to run from them as reasonable suspicion to search that person.” and arrest.”

Hasbrouck said police brutality was evident even before the War on Drugs initiated the mass incarceration of blacks, well before the Warlow decision. He said it had reached the point where “even easygoing white people were beginning to see and appreciate it.”

“So knowing that the police could shoot you just because you drive as a black man, shop as a black man, or get coffee as a black man, it makes perfect sense for a black man to want to avoid interacting with the police — whether he’s committing a crime.” committed or not,” he said.

In 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in Commonwealth v. Warren (2016) that an unprovoked escape alone is insufficient to stop and search a person. In its opinion, the Massachusetts court acknowledged that black men in Boston have legitimate reasons for evading prosecution.

Legal experts said the Warlow argument also raises questions about the definition of a “high crime” area. Hasbrouck said the term “almost always” refers to a black neighborhood that is under surveillance.

Ekow Yankah, a jurist and law professor at the University of Michigan, said when police constantly patrol a given area, it can essentially become a high-crime area.

“If the police were knocking on every door on Wall Street looking for drugs, Wall Street would suddenly be a high-crime area,” Yankah told the Atlanta Black Star, adding that law enforcement doesn’t keep metrics in most cases to support categorization and the mass police presence creates an atmosphere of fear.

If the Maryland Court of Appeals denies Washington’s motion to vacate his conviction, Caplan said they would take the argument to the US Supreme Court. Still, she hopes the state appeal is fair and builds momentum that could force the federal court to reconsider the Warlow decision. Black man resists conviction arguing running from police gives police no reasonable suspicion to stop and search in 2022

James Brien

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