STATE v. BELIEU No. 55075-1.
112 Wn.2d 587 (1989)
773 P.2d 46
THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, Petitioner, v. KEVIN R. BELIEU, Respondent. THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, Petitioner, v. KEVIN R. BELIEU, Defendant, RONALD M. BLOUNT, Respondent.
The Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc.
May 18, 1989.
Donald C. Brockett, Prosecuting Attorney, and Neil H. Korbas and Patricia A. Thompson, Deputies, for petitioner.
Michael D. Kinkley, for respondent Belieu.
Lewis M. Schrawyer, for respondent Blount.
The State of Washington sought review of a ruling of the Court of Appeals, Division Three, that the use of drawn guns and felony-stop procedures by police exceeded the permissible scope of a "Terry"
The single issue in this case is whether reasonable fears for their own safety justified the use of drawn guns by police officers for an investigative stop of four men in a car at night who were reasonably suspected by the officers of planning a burglary in an area where weapons had been stolen in a series of earlier burglaries.
On the evening of October 21, 1985, Stephen Duffy was at his home in Spokane on the east 2600 block of Heroy Avenue watching television. The lights in his house were dimmed. The blinds were drawn. From outside, it appeared
Moments later, Mr. Duffy telephoned 911. He told the operator he thought the men were "casing" his house for burglary and explained the details of his encounter. He identified himself and gave the operator his telephone number and a description of the men.
Meanwhile, about a mile away, three officers of the Spokane Police Department were engaged in surveillance of a suspected burglary. Officers Richard J. Poole, Joel Fertakis and Larry Lindskog were all in unmarked cars and wearing plain clothes. They heard a report of the Duffy incident over the police radio, giving a description of the men suspected of casing houses for burglary. At 9:39 p.m. Officer Lindskog, who was in charge of the special surveillance group, dispatched Officer Poole, who arrived in the area of the Duffy residence at 9:46 p.m.
Officer Poole headed east on Heroy Avenue. In the area of the 2700-2800 block, he saw two men walking west on the north side of the street. One of them matched the description given on the radio. Officer Poole continued east in his automobile and took up a position on the next side street. From there he could observe the two men who were then walking away from him west on Heroy Avenue. He reported this information on the radio.
Shortly afterward, Officer Fertakis approached the area in his automobile heading south on Lacey Street. He saw two men walking north on Lacey from Heroy, one of whom matched the description broadcast earlier. Officer Fertakis
By this time, approximately 9:50 p.m., Officer Lindskog had also arrived in the area in his automobile. He took up a position on the west side of Lacey at the intersection of Wellesley Avenue, looking south toward Hoffman and Heroy. He saw the two men turn the corner from Lacey onto Hoffman. He could not see the white Torino near Heroy, but was monitoring the radio. After hearing Fertakis' report about the Torino, Lindskog told him to leave his location. Officer Fertakis pulled past the Torino, drove up to the intersection of Hoffman, and turned east, attempting to follow the two men who had just gone around the corner. They had disappeared. The officer continued east on Hoffman. It was 9:51 p.m.
Officer Lindskog saw the two men running back from the area where they had just gone out of his line of sight on Hoffman. He reported this by radio. The men cut across a yard at the corner of Lacey and Hoffman, running hard in the direction of the white car. Officer Fertakis made a U-turn and headed back toward Lacey Street.
The white Torino started up Lacey toward Officer Lindskog in the dark with its lights off. The officer could see a passenger in the darkened car bent over or slouched down in the front seat doing something. As the automobile entered the intersection of Hoffman, its lights came on. Officer Fertakis, heading back toward that same intersection from the east, observed four people in the Torino.
Officer Lindskog got out of his vehicle, pointed his service revolver at the Torino, identified himself as a police officer, and ordered the men in the white Ford Torino to keep their hands in plain view. Officers Stanley and Giese also got out of their vehicle and drew their weapons. It was 9:55 p.m.
Officer Lindskog instructed the driver of the Torino, respondent Ronald M. Blount, to get out of the vehicle with his hands on his head and to back toward Officer Giese. As Blount was backing up, Officer Stanley observed what appeared to be a weapon on the driver's hip. Blount began to move his hand toward it. He was ordered to replace his hands behind his neck. Officer Giese frisked him and discovered a knife, referred to at trial as a "survival" knife. The officer then removed the weapon and handcuffed respondent Blount.
Officer Stanley had taken up a position behind a tree on the passenger side of the Torino. Officer Lindskog ordered the passenger, respondent Kevin R. Belieu, out of the car and ordered him to back toward Officer Stanley. When the officer frisked Belieu for weapons, he discovered some hard objects in Belieu's pocket and removed them for the officers' safety. A ring, proved at trial to have been stolen, fell to the ground. Officer Stanley handcuffed Belieu and placed him in a patrol car.
After Brian Anderson, riding in the right rear seat of the Torino, got out, Officer Stanley could see a rifle on the back seat. Officer Lindskog also observed this weapon from outside the vehicle after the fourth man, John Sweet, got out
Respondent Donald Blount had been placed in the custody of Officer Gregory Harshman, who then gave "Miranda" warnings which Blount said he understood. It was 10:01 p.m.
At 10:05 p.m. Officer Lindskog heard respondent Blount consent to a search of the vehicle. He then checked beneath the driver's seat and noticed a protruding gun handle. He did not touch nor remove the gun at that time. Later it was identified as a .357 magnum revolver. He found another handgun under the passenger seat. It was a .38 caliber weapon. There was a quantity of trash and garbage under the front seats which would have prevented the weapons being passed from the back to the front. All the weapons were loaded. About 10 minutes after the initial stop, it was discovered that respondent Ronald Blount had an outstanding traffic warrant. He was then placed under arrest.
Brian Anderson initially gave a false name when questioned about his identity. It was later discovered that there was an outstanding felony escape warrant for him. At trial, he testified that he and the three others had committed a number of burglaries. He said the four men were looking for places to burglarize and that their plan was to find a vacant home. They were doing this when he and John Sweet approached the Duffy residence.
Respondent Kevin Belieu was on parole from, and had prior convictions for, second degree robbery and second degree assault.
At their separate trials in the Spokane County Superior Court, both Kevin Belieu and Ronald Blount made motions to suppress evidence obtained during the vehicle stop, contending the stop was unlawful. Both motions were denied.
Judge George T. Shields incorporated into his conclusions of law in respondent Belieu's case a statement that
Judge Thomas E. Merryman, entering his findings on respondent Blount's motion, added that probable cause to arrest may have existed prior to the stop. This would, of course, render moot any further inquiry into the scope of the stop procedures. Nevertheless, he analyzed the stop as a "Terry" stop and concluded it was valid. He noted:
On February 3, 1986, Judge Shields entered a judgment on stipulated facts, finding respondent Kevin Belieu "guilty" of felon-in-possession of a handgun. On April 29, 1986, after a full trial of respondent Ronald Blount, Judge Merryman entered a judgment of "guilty" of second degree burglary and attempted burglary.
Both cases were appealed and consolidated in the Court of Appeals. The convictions were overturned in a 2-to-1 opinion filed March 22, 1988, reported as State v. Belieu,
The landmark case on the federal law of investigative stops is Terry v. Ohio,
See State v. Wheeler,
Steps 1 through 3 relate to the preliminary question, "Is this a Terry stop?," and step 4 then asks, "`Given that this type of seizure meets the minimum requirements for a Terry stop, was this particular seizure a reasonable intrusion in light of the circumstances at the time?'" Wheeler, at 245 (Pearson, C.J., dissenting). This type of "two prong" analytical approach was adopted by the Court of Appeals in this case. Belieu, at 839. The Court of Appeals then based its reversals solely on the second "prong," step 4 of the inquiry above, stating "we hold the full felony stop executed by [the] officers far exceeded the scope of a permissible investigatory stop." Belieu, at 839. Thus, this case does not present a question whether there was sufficient reasonable suspicion to justify the stop.
Further, this case does not present the question whether ordering the suspects out of their car converted the investigative stop into an arrest. An investigative stop is not transformed into an arrest merely because an officer orders a suspect out of a car. State v. Thornton,
As events unfolded, the driver of the stopped vehicle, respondent Blount, was found to be armed immediately after the stop. Thus, the question is not presented whether the subsequent handcuffing and separation of the four men was a reasonable means of maintaining security. See United States v. Taylor,
This court's leading case on the scope of investigative stops, interpreting Terry, is State v. Williams,
Under Williams, a court must make several inquiries in evaluating investigative stops: (1) was the initial interference with the suspect's freedom of movement justified at its inception? and, (2) was it reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place? Williams, at 739.
To justify an intrusion, a police officer must be able to point to "`specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion.'" Williams, at 739 (quoting
As indicated in Williams, the United States Supreme Court has suggested three relevant factors in determining whether intrusion upon a suspect's liberty is so substantial that its reasonableness is dependent upon probable cause and hence cannot be supported by suspicion alone: (1) the purpose of the stop; (2) the amount of physical intrusion upon the suspect's liberty; and (3) the length of time the suspect is detained. Williams, at 740.
This case entails only one of the factors of that inquiry. The purpose of the stop was for investigation of attempted burglary. The 10-minute detention before the stop began to ripen into arrests was brief, compared to the 35-minute interval that appeared to "approach excessiveness" in Williams, at 741 n. 4. We are concerned here only with the appropriateness of the display of force before respondent Blount was found to be armed and made a gesture interpreted as "going for his weapon." Compare United States v. Greene,
In Belieu, the Court of Appeals compared the intrusiveness of this stop with that of Williams and found them remarkably similar. Belieu, at 840. If true, this would lead to a conclusion that the stop was, in effect, an arrest. However, the factors relating to the scope of intrusion that weighed against the police in Williams are distinguishable from a comparable list of factors in this case.
In Williams the court acknowledged that under certain circumstances the combination of drawn guns, handcuffs and seclusion of defendants may be justified. But the necessary circumstances were found lacking in that case. Williams, at 740. Similarly, the Court of Appeals in this case held that "the facts known and articulated by the police officers here did not give rise to a reasonable belief these individuals, in this car, were armed and dangerous." Belieu, at 842. We disagree.
In this case the police were aware that weapons had been burglarized from residences in the area. The alleged crime was burglary or attempted burglary. The suspects had made several furtive gestures. These reasons were articulated by the police and constituted facts to justify an inference that the suspects were armed. The investigation was focused squarely upon these persons because of the earlier
The Court of Appeals in this case found "no case similar on its facts ... in which a full felony stop, with guns drawn, followed by handcuffing and frisking the car's occupants, has been found less intrusive than an arrest." Belieu, at 841. Several cases from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit are then cited, including United States v. Robertson,
There is no bright line standard for determining the degree of invasive force which may convert an investigative stop into an arrest. The standard is most frequently stated to be a function of the officers' reasonable fears for their own safety. This fear is reasonable if it is based on "particular facts" from which reasonable inferences of danger may be drawn. Sibron v. New York,
The other bases for distinguishing between a stop and an arrest are measured from the perspective of the person under "investigation." These are stated alternatively as the point at which the suspect's movement is completely restricted, see, e.g., Strickler, at 380, or the point at which an innocent person would reasonably believe that person was under arrest. State v. Friederick,
The "complete restriction" analysis has not always been applied on occasions when it would logically compel a conclusion that the stop in question was in fact an arrest. See United States v. Scheiblauer,
It is not practical to prescribe an objective formula for police conduct to determine when an investigative stop becomes an arrest. There are only two places pertinent to this case for drawing a firm line where force will convert a stop into an arrest: (1) when a weapon is drawn by police; or, (2) when a weapon is pointed at a suspect by police. Courts generally have not drawn such lines, preferring to make fact-specific determinations of the reasonableness of force on a case-by-case basis. See United States v. Ceballos,
The Court of Appeals in this case emphasized it would not require police officers to provide easy targets for dangerous persons, acknowledging that "[w]hen officers have a reasonable belief a car's occupants are armed and dangerous, they may make a stop at gunpoint." Belieu, at 842, citing United States v. Ceballos,
This is in alignment with the American Law Institute's Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure, which states:
(Footnote omitted.) Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure § 110.2, commentary, at 284-85 (1975).
What remains is a determination of the reasonableness of the officers' fears. The Terry court, in discussing the appropriateness of a frisk, contemplated the use of force when "justified," saying:
Terry, at 24.
Thus, the issue is further refined to determine how much justification officers must have in fearing for their personal safety when confronting unknown persons in an emergent investigative stop. On this question, courts are reluctant to substitute their judgment for that of police officers in the field. "A founded suspicion is all that is necessary, some
The question whether the use of drawn guns is justified in effecting a stop may be analogized to the standard for frisking one who is the subject of a "Terry" stop. That standard is that the "officer need not be absolutely certain that the individual is armed; the issue is whether a reasonably prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that of others was in danger." (Italics ours.) Terry v. Ohio,
The police officers in this case had reason to believe the suspects might be armed because they were suspected of burglary or attempted burglary in an area where numerous
A generalized fear that persons involved in a particular type of crime, e.g., narcotics traffic, may be armed or dangerous because criminals of that type frequently are armed is insufficient to support a maximum use of force. United States v. Ceballos,
In contrast, a specific fear that particular persons may be armed because of the nature of the criminal activity of which they are suspected has been found sufficient to support the use of drawn weapons. See State v. Thornton,
The facts of this case support specific fear on the officers' part. Because the occupants of the white Torino were suspected of burglary or attempted burglary in an area where numerous burglaries had resulted in weapons being stolen, there was a reasonable inference that they might have been
There was no opportunity to observe the suspects for a protracted period to evaluate their potential dangerousness before an investigative stop was justified. There was limited opportunity even to see clearly how many persons occupied the suspect vehicle. Under these circumstances "[t]he risk of harm to both the police and the [suspects] is minimized if the officers routinely exercise unquestioned command of the situation." Michigan v. Summers,
Finally, pointing weapons at suspects reasonably believed to be dangerous does not convert an investigative stop into an arrest. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit considered a case with facts remarkably parallel to those in this case. In United States v. Merritt,
Merritt, at 1274, quoting Bailey v. United States,
We conclude that under the particular circumstances of this case the officers had sufficient specific information about the men in the Ford Torino upon which to base reasonable fears for their own safety that justified the use of drawn weapons in accomplishing the initial phase of an investigative stop. Further, we conclude that there is sufficient basis in the record from which the trial courts could conclude that the detention was neither arbitrary nor harassing.
We need not consider whether the stop itself was justified because the Court of Appeals made the assumption that it was. We also need not consider the question whether the combined use of drawn weapons, frisking and handcuffing exceeded the permissible scope of a "Terry" stop because these were justified by events occurring after the initial stop.
CALLOW, C.J., and UTTER, BRACHTENBACH, DOLLIVER, DORE, PEARSON, and ANDERSEN, JJ., concur.
DURHAM, J., concurs in the result.
- No Cases Found