USA v. Wright
Opinion Date: January 18, 2023
Judge: Rhesa Hawkins Barksdale
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
At issue is whether Defendant was seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment when an officer, with emergency lights engaged, pulled behind Wright’s parked vehicle, and he did not attempt to flee or terminate the encounter but failed to comply fully with the officer’s commands. The district court, at the end of an evidentiary hearing, however, denied Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding erroneously that the Terry stop was initiated instead at a later point in the encounter.
The Fifth Circuit, while retaining jurisdiction over the appeal, remanded to the district court for it, based on the record developed at the suppression hearing, to prepare expeditiously written findings of fact and conclusions of law on whether the seizure at the earlier point in time was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court explained that Defendant not complying fully with some of the Officer’s commands was improper, to say the least, but his behavior does not show defiance of the Officer’s authority. Defendant sufficiently submitted to the show of authority because he objectively appeared to believe he was not free to leave, and he did not attempt to flee, nor terminate the encounter. The court further explained that because the district court’s findings and conclusions turn instead on events occurring after the Terry stop, the court is unable to deduce from them whether the district court concluded the totality of the circumstances prior to the Officer’s pulling behind Wright’s vehicle provided reasonable suspicion justifying the stop.
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