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United States v. Lindsey

decided: November 18, 1971.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
BOBBY R. LINDSEY, APPELLANT



Seitz, Chief Judge, Hastie, Circuit Judge and Herman, District Judge.

Author: Seitz

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Chief Judge.

On this appeal from a conviction under the federal narcotics laws, 21 U.S.C.A. ยงยง 173, 174 (1961), the defendant contends the trial court erroneously admitted into evidence heroin allegedly seized in violation of the constitutional proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures.

On March 20, 1970, Marshal Brophy, an officer of the Anti-Highjacking Task Force, was monitoring passengers boarding Eastern Airlines Flight 427 bound for Atlanta, Georgia from Newark Airport. The Anti-Highjacking Task Force is an intergovernmental agency composed of Justice Department, Federal Aviation Administration and airline industry personnel who have been seeking solutions to the problem of airline highjacking. At approximately 11:55 p.m., about four minutes prior to the scheduled departure of Flight 427, Marshal Brophy observed defendant rush into the boarding lounge. Defendant handed a ticket to the ticket agent on duty and told him to " save a seat for Williams." It is not clear whether Marshal Brophy himself examined the ticket. However, the ticket agent noted it was in the name of "James Marshall," and made a gesture to Marshal Brophy, indicating defendant should be watched. His suspicions aroused, the marshal continued to observe the defendant. Defendant appeared nervous and was "looking about" and "perspiring."

When the moment of departure arrived, and the defendant moved towards the aircraft, Marshal Brophy approached defendant, identified himself and asked for identification. Defendant handed Marshal Brophy a Selective Service card bearing the name "Melvin Giles." The general indicia of extreme anxiety Marshal Brophy noted before seemed to increase. By way of further identification defendant produced a Social Security card bearing his true name "Bobby R. Lindsey."

In the course of ascertaining defendant's identity, Marshal Brophy noted two large bulges in defendant's coat pocket. Fearing the bulges might be weapons, the Marshal asked defendant to come with him to an area adjacent to but outside of the boarding lounge. There he patted down defendant to effect a weapons search. After feeling the bulges in defendant's coat pocket, which he described as "very solid," Marshal Brophy extracted from the pocket two aluminum-wrapped packages later found to contain the heroin which was the main prosecution evidence at trial. There was, of course, no search warrant.

Defendant contends the heroin was inadmissible evidence because it was obtained by an unlawful search and seizure. The government says that the heroin was lawfully seized under the circumstances, relying on Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968).

In Terry, the Supreme Court reviewed a conviction for carrying concealed weapons. The evidence against the petitioner had been obtained as the result of a search conducted on a public street by a plainclothes detective acting without a warrant. The suspicions of the detective had been aroused by observation of several men who appeared to be lingering an unusual length of time in front of a store window. The detective, although without having probable cause to arrest the subject of the search, stopped the petitioner and two others, asking their names. After they "mumbled" a response, the detective conducted a patdown or weapons search which turned up the weapon admitted against petitioner at trial. The Court, in upholding the validity of the search in Terry said, at 30, 88 S. Ct. at 1884:

"* * * where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, where in the course of investigating this behavior he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries, and where nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or others' safety, he is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him."

The court ruled that the detective formed a reasonable belief that criminal activity might have been afoot and that nothing in his reasonable preliminary inquiries dispelled his reasonable fear that the men he questioned might be armed.

Applying Terry to the case at hand, we believe Marshal Brophy's reactions to the unusual behavior of the defendant were justified. In the context of a possible airplane highjacking with the enormous consequences which may flow therefrom, and in view of the limited time in which Marshal Brophy had to act, the level of suspicion required for a Terry investigative stop and protective search should be lowered. Therefore, despite the fact that it may be said that the level of suspicion present in the instant case is lower than in Terry, it was sufficiently high to justify Marshal Brophy's acting.

In United States v. Marshall, 142 U.S. App. D.C. 167, 440 F.2d 195 (D.C.Cir.1970), cert. denied 400 U.S. 909, 91 S. Ct. 153, 27 L. Ed. 2d 148 (1970), a man was observed in Washington, D.C. about midnight driving a rented Virginia car. The police followed him a short distance and observed him making many turns. The driver of the car then pulled it over to the side of the road, parked it haphazardly with the lights left on and started running from it. The police stopped him and he produced a driver's permit and rental contract for the car. Noticing a bulge in his clothing, the police searched him and discovered a concealed gun. The court upheld this search on the basis of Terry. The level of suspicion present in Marshall was lower than in Terry, but the court found the investigative stop and the protective search justified. See also Ballou v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 403 F.2d 982 (1st Cir. 1968), cert. denied 394 U.S. 909, 89 S. Ct. 1024, 22 L. Ed. 2d 222 (1969).

Two other cases decided under Terry demonstrate the principle that even though the level of suspicion is sufficiently high a Terry protective search must be limited in scope to discovery of weapons. In United States v. Davis, 441 F.2d 28 (9th Cir. 1971), the defendant was stopped after the police witnessed him commit three serious traffic offenses. They patted down defendant and felt a bulge in his pants pocket. They proceeded to extract a roll of counterfeit bills. The court ruled the search invalid under Terry, concluding that the officers had no reason to believe the suspect was armed or dangerous. In Tinney v. Wilson, 408 F.2d 912 (9th Cir. 1969), the pat down revealed something in defendant's pocket that felt like pills wrapped in cellophane. The officer effected a search and the material ...


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