A federal grand jury charged Appellant Angel Camacho with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by prior felon and one count of possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Appellant filed a motion to suppress the firearm and ammunition evidence on the grounds that they were obtained through an illegal search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The trial judge denied the motion. Camacho then entered conditional guilty pleas on both counts, reserving his right to challenge the trial judge’s suppression ruling on appeal. The district court sentenced him to the mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison one Court one, to be served concurrently with 5 years in prison on Court Two, followed by 5 years of formal probation. As an Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney, protecting my clients’ constitutional rights is my number one priority.
In this case, in question is whether or not appellant’s Fourth Amendment Rights were violated when he was questioned and subsequently searched and arrested. The facts of this case are, that a series of 911 calls reported a fight going on between gangs, identifying most of them as members of the Latin Kings, a well-known national street gang. Police Gang Units arrived on the scene as people scattered. One officer in particular recognized several of them as members of the Latin Kings. Another officer noticed two men he did not recognize walking down the street and directed two officers to intercept and question them. The officers that were directed to go were familiar with the gangs and the gang members in the area and did not recognize either of the men walking down the street. They pulled their car up in a driveway, blocking their path, got out of the car and ordered one of the men to put his hands on the roof of the car and the other officer began questioning Camacho. Camacho indicated that he had seen the fight but was not involved. Camacho had his hands in his pockets. The officer ordered him to take his hands out of his pockets. When he did, the officer patted his waist and felt a gun and yelled “gun”. At this point, Camacho pushed the officer and they struggled until Camacho was subdued and placed under arrest. He was then searched which resulted in the officer finding a gun and ammunition.
Appellant, Camacho’s position is that, the initial stop was a violation of his Fourth Amendment in that the police officers lacked the reasonable suspicion necessary for the stop and seizure. The judge agreed with Camacho’s position on this and agreed that this was not enough to raise a reasonable suspicion. However, the judge concluded that suppression of the gun was “neither called for nor appropriate.” The trial judge found that the gun was seized after Camacho shoved the officer and the officer succeeded in wrestling him to the ground and placing him under arrest. Therefore, the search and seizure of the gun was justified.
The Appellate Court agreed with Camacho and cited Terry v. Ohio, wherein it states that a police officer may briefly detain an individual for questioning if the officer “reasonably suspects that the person apprehended is committing or has committed a crime. The reasonable suspicion standard is an intermediate, indeterminate standard that requires more than a mere hunch. It demands a “particularized and objective basis” for suspecting the person stopped of criminal activity. The suspicion must be both reasonable and “grounded in specific and articulate facts.” The Appellate Court’s opinion was that the police officers lacked an objectively reasonable particularized basis for suspecting Camacho of criminal activity and that the initial questioning of Camacho was instead an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. And further, that the officers’ conduct “amounted to a flagrant violation of the core of Camacho’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures.”
The Appellate Court further concluded that regardless of whether or not the frisk and discovery of the gun was legal, the gun was so tainted by the illegal stop that it should have been suppressed as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” The discovery of the gun was a direct result of the officer’s’ original unlawful seizure of Camacho. The Appellate Court concluded that the district court erred in denying Camacho’s motion to suppress the firearm and ammunition and the Judgment of the District Court was reversed.
The Appellate Court’s decision was later reversed on Appeal by the United States. Citing case law, The United States Circuit Court held that in this case, the suspicion may be modest; but the intrusion is similarly modest and the need for prompt inquiry is compelling. They further found that in questioning Camacho, the police acted reasonably and that “reasonableness, as it happens, is the standard set by the Fourth Amendment itself. ”
Anyone who has been arrested and/or charged with a crime as a result of a stop and search should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney who has the experience and knowledge to protect your rights as it applies to the US Constitutionhttps://www.williamweinberg.com/ will know whether or not there your rights were violated and thereby leading to the possibility of having evidence suppressed and/or the case being dismissed.
If you would like to know more about illegal search and seizure, or any criminal legal matter, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at his Irvine, California office at 949-474-8008 or at www.williamweinberg.com.