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Media Alerts - Fourth Circuit: United States v. Bumpers
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February 15, 2013
  Fourth Circuit: United States v. Bumpers
Headline: Standing Near Dumpster Creates Reasonable Cause for Police Stop

Area of Law: Criminal

Issue(s) Presented: Whether a police officer who found a man standing near a dumpster on the side of a convenience store in a high-crime area had reasonable suspicion to stop him for trespassing.

Brief Summary: A police officer spotted Irvin Bumpers and another man standing near two dumpsters on the side of a convenience store. They tried to walk away quickly as the police officer approached. The police officer, believing the men were trespassing, stopped Bumpers and found he had an active warrant. A subsequent arrest and search revealed that Bumpers, a convicted felon, was carrying a revolver. Bumpers was charged and convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Fourth Circuit noted that Bumpers, who was standing near a "no trespassing" sign in a high-crime area, walked past the entrance of the convenience store in evading the police. These factors, the court concluded, created reasonable suspicion that Bumpers was trespassing.

Extended Summary: Police Officer R.B. Tinsley was on patrol in a high-crime, high-drug area when he arrived at a shopping plaza with a small convenience store. Officer Tinsley saw Irvin Bumpers and another man standing near a pair of dumpsters toward the back of the convenience store's side parking lot. When the men saw Officer Tinsley's car, they walked quickly past the convenience store's front entrance. Officer Tinsley suspected the men were trespassing and asked them to stop. Although his companion walked away, Bumpers stopped and identified himself. Officer Tinsley arrested Bumpers after the name that Bumpers provided returned an active warrant. During a search incident to Bumpers's arrest, Officer Tinsley found a revolver in Bumpers's sweatshirt. At trial, Bumpers tried unsuccessfully to exclude the revolver as evidence, claiming that Officer Tinsley recovered it through an unlawful seizure. Bumpers was subsequently found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit considered whether the revolver should have been excluded at trial. The revolver could be admitted only if Officer Tinsley's initial stop of Bumpers was justified by reasonable articulable suspicion that Bumpers was trespassing. The court concluded that such reasonable suspicion existed because the circumstances indicated that Bumpers was not a lawful customer. In so finding, the court noted the area's history of crime, the location where Bumpers was found, and that Bumpers tried to evade the police and made no attempt to enter the convenience store, despite walking past its front door.

Writing in dissent, Judge Diaz expressed concern over the weight that the majority gave to the "high-crime" nature of the area where Bumpers was arrested. Judge Diaz also noted that Bumpers, who had a right to ignore the police if he was doing nothing wrong, simply tried to walk away. Judge Diaz concluded that the circumstances in question created only the "hunch" of criminal activity and not reasonable articulable suspicion.

For the full opinion, please see:

Panel : Judges Wilkinson, Diaz, and Floyd

Argument Date: 09/20/2012

Date of Issued Opinion: 01/16/2013

Docket Number: No. 11-4689

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Brandon K. Moore

Counsel: ARGUED: Patrick L. Bryant, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellant. Richard Daniel Cooke, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Michael S. Nachmanoff, Federal Public Defender, Alexandria, Virginia, Rodolfo Cejas, II, Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Norfolk, Virginia, for Appellant. Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney, Alexandria, Virginia, Kristine E. Wolfe, Special Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Newport News, Virginia, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Wilkinson, J. (majority); Diaz, J. (dissenting).

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 02/15/2013 03:41 PM     4th Circuit  

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