Search Found To Be Illegal In United States v. Beauchamp

The United States Constitution provides several different fundamental rights that apply to all U.S. citizens and all criminal defendants. One of these protections is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police or other law enforcement violate these rights, then an experienced criminal defense lawyer can challenge the evidence obtained as the result of an “illegal search.” In some cases, this may lead to criminal charges being reduced or even thrown out.

In United States v. Beauchamp, police saw a man – Gevoyl Beauchamp – walking at 2:30 in the morning in an area known for drug possession and drug trafficking complaints. One police officer noticed Beauchamp and Beauchamp “hurriedly walked away without making eye contact.” The police officer then instructed his partner to stop Beauchamp, who was now a couple of blocks away. The partner drove up to Beauchamp, got out of his car and ordered Beauchamp to stop. Beauchamp complied. However, because Beauchamp seemed “nervous and shaking” the officer frisked Beauchamp and asked permission to search him. He agreed, and police discovered $1300 in cash. During the search, the Beauchamp’s pants had fallen down and police officers noticed plastic protruding from his butt cheeks. Beauchamp began to run away, but was detained by police officers who determined that the plastic contained crack cocaine.

Beauchamp was indicted on 2 counts – drug possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of crack cocaine and drug distribution of less five grams of crack cocaine. The second count was dismissed and Beauchamp subsequently entered a plea of guilty of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. He then appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained pursuant to a seizure. Where police officers lack sufficient “reasonable suspicion” to conduct a search for drugs, an experienced Michigan drug charges defense attorney may be able to get the evidence obtained illegally thrown out through filing a motion to suppress, which may lead to charges being dropped.

The court noted that the fourth amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons…against unreasonable search and seizures. Although in some circumstances, such as in “consensual encounters” the 4th amendment is not applicable, whenever a “seizure” occurs, 4th amendment protections apply. An individual is considered “seized” when an officer “by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained [his] liberty.” Here the court determined that a seizure had occurred because a reasonable person in Beauchamp’s position would not have felt free to walk away after being targeted by the police, and after trying to walk away, being specifically instructed to stop and change the direction he was walking,

The court also determined that the search was “unreasonable” because Beauchamp’s behavior did not constitute a suspicious act – his ambiguous actions in walking away from a police officer and avoiding eye contact alone is not suspicious. As stated by the court “an inquiry into reasonable suspicion looks for the exact opposite of ambiguity: objective and particularized indicia of criminal activity.” A reasonable suspicion to make a stop cannot be justified by facts that become apparent only after a seizure.

As a result, the court determined the police did not have a reasonable suspicion to stop and detain Beauchamp, and the stop was an illegal seizure conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that his motion to suppress the evidence should have been granted.

If you have be arrested or charged with a crime, it is important to speak with an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer. An aggressive criminal defense law firm can fight back. Where law enforcement has overstepped its authority and violated your rights, it may be possible to get evidence collected thrown out, leading to charges being dismissed. For more information or if you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact the knowledgeable Michigan criminal defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates for a free consultation.

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