US v. Robinson (4th Cir. 2017) (en banc) (filed 1/23/17) — Liberal gun carry laws do not impact police authority to conduct stop and frisks.

January 23rd, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

The full court took up this case which initially had been decided by a three judge panel in United States v. Robinson, No. 14-4902 (filed February 23, 2016).  The dissent in that opinion, Judge Niemeyer, wrote the majority opinion for the en banc decision.   The question here is:

Whether a law enforcement officer is justified in frisking a person whom the officer has lawfully stopped and whom the officer reasonably believes to be armed, regardless of whether the person may legally be entitled to carry the firearm. Stated otherwise, the question is whether the risk of danger to a law enforcement officer created by the forced stop of a person who is armed is eliminated by the fact that state law authorizes persons to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm?

The answer is Yes.  As the Court succinctly holds, “[T]he danger justifying a protective frisk arises from the combination of a forced police encounter and the presence of a weapon, not from any illegality of the weapon’s possession.  See Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 146 (1972); Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1052, n. 16 (1983).

This flips the initial decision in this case which I earlier detailed on my blog.   For practitioners, the take-away is that liberal gun carry laws in your jurisdiction do not impact law enforcement’s authority to conduct stop and frisks on the finding of reasonable suspicion.  Good to know.

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