STATE v. JARRELL RICHARDS, SC 18370
Judicial District of Bridgeport
Criminal; Search and Seizure; Whether Police had Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion to Stop Defendant's Automobile. The defendant was charged with, among other things, possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle. The defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized from the automobile on the ground that the search of the automobile violated his constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, three police officers testified that, while conducting surveillance during the early morning hours in an area known for drug related activities, they observed the defendant and two passengers sitting in a vehicle with Vermont license plates. The officers claimed that it was common for drug dealers to park their automobiles along the street while waiting for others to approach to transact drug related business and that drug dealers commonly used rented automobiles, which often have out-of-state license plates, in their drug related activities in an attempt to escape police detection. The officers observed a pedestrian approach the automobile and briefly converse with the occupants but did not observe any hand-to-hand transaction take place. The defendant drove away, and the officers questioned the pedestrian about what had transpired. She replied that the occupants of the automobile had asked her to approach them and asked her if she "was straight," which the officers and the pedestrian understood to be a way of asking whether she wanted to buy drugs. After pursuing and stopping the defendant's automobile, the officers observed the automobile's occupants engaging in movements that suggested that they might be attempting to hide contraband. Upon searching the automobile, the officers found a handgun. Based on this evidence, the trial court denied the defendant's motion to suppress. The defendant then entered a plea of nolo contendere, conditioned on the right to appeal from the denial of his motion to suppress. On appeal, the Appellate Court (113 Conn. App. 823) affirmed the trial court's decision, determining that, under the totality of the circumstances, the police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion that one or more occupants of the vehicle was selling drugs so as to justify the investigatory stop. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop the defendant's car.