Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Gibbs: Brief Roadside Detention at Gunpoint Was a Lawful Traffic Stop

In United States v. Gibbs, No. 17-12474 (Mar. 6, 2019) (Marcus, Dubina, Goldberg), the Court upheld the denial of a motion to suppress.

Officers observed a vehicle drive into oncoming traffic and illegally park in the middle of the street.  Officers approached the vehicle, with its engine still running, and effectively blocked in (and thus detained) two individuals who had just exited the car.  As the officers approached, with their guns drawn, the defendant blurted out that he possessed a firearm.  The Court first determined that the officers had a lawful basis to detain both men, as the situation arose out of a lawful traffic stop.  The officers were justified in briefly detaining the defendant, even though he was not the driver, because based on their location in between cars, the officers could not have detained the driver without also detaining the defendant, and one of the officers did not know at the time which individual was the driver.  Emphasizing the very brief detention and the dangers associated with traffic stops, the Court determined that the detention was not unreasonable under the particular facts and circumstances of the case.  Finally, the Court determined that the officers did not convert the lawful stop into an unlawful one merely by drawing their weapons; rather, the lawfulness of the encounter turned on the validity of the stop, which was lawful.