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The Fourth Amendment’s Sliding Scale Protection

gun-and-bullets-1146529-sChicago – On a Sunday night in Chicago around Armitage and Kildare and Wabansia and Karlov the Chicago Police received numerous 911 calls reporting gunshots in the area. The callers reported to 911 hearing between 5 and 9 shots and based on additional 911 calls that the shots were fired from a black car traveling south on Karlov nears Wabansia.

The traffic was light, and two Chicago Police officers on patrol drove to Kostner and proceeded south. Kostner is a few blocks west of Karlov. The officers drove past a black car heading north and officers turned around and followed the black car. The Chicago Police officers stopped the car a short distance later. The officers approached the car and found a revolver on the passenger seat of the defendant, which had 5 of the six round fired.

The Defendant, a convicted felon, was charged with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.  18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

The Defendant filed a motion to suppress the gun arguing that the Chicago Police officers lacked reasonable suspicion to justify the stop of the car. The District Court judge denied the Defendant’s motion to suppress and the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

The Seventh Circuit explained that the reasonableness of the stop is based on the totality of the circumstances, and that a number of circumstances, besides just being close to the reports of shots being fired distinguished this case from others. The Court noted on several occasions that this was a dangerous situation and applied a sliding scale under the greater the danger the less suspicion needed for a reasonable seizure and search. The court found that the dangerousness of the crime, the lack of time between the calls to 911 and the stop of the car, the distance between the locations reported of shots fired, the car’s color, and the light traffic, justified the stop of Defendant’s car.

See, United States v. Burgess, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 13774 (July 17, 2014)

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