Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia gun possession case, requiring the court to review the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress a gun that was found under the seat of the car he was driving. Ultimately, the court concluded that the facts surrounding the car stop, as well as the information the officers had at the time, failed to justify the officers’ protective sweep of the vehicle.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, police officers pulled over the defendant due to a burnt-out fog light. When the officers approached, they asked if there were any weapons in the car. The defendant told them that the car was his girlfriend’s, but that there were not weapons he knew of. When asked, the defendant declined to give consent to search the vehicle, explaining that it was not his car. However, the defendant offered to call his girlfriend to ask her if she was willing to give consent. While one officer was interacting with the defendant, the other looked up a Department of Corrections alert indicating the defendant may be a member of the Crips gang. However, the officer did not convey this information to his partner at the time.
After the defendant refused to consent to a search, one of the officers told him to get out of the car so that he could perform a protective sweep of the vehicle. The defendant complied. The protective sweep revealed a gun under the driver’s seat.