The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a man who was charged with possession of a handgun.
According to the Legal Times, an officer approached Ernest Ramsey because he suspected that he was urinating in an alley. Somehow, the officer ended up running his name through the police database and searching him.
The court ruled that since the officer didn't have cause to look Ramsey up, the search was unlawful and a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Judge Phyllis Thompson wrote that without "reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause," the police can't detain individuals to look up their information in the police database. Senior Judge Vanessa Ruiz agreed and wrote that the officer shouldn’t have stopped Ramsey in the first place.
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The officer testified that he saw Ramsey go into an alley that was mostly used for urination, drug sales and other crimes. When he approached Ramsay, the officer saw that his pants zipper was down and his hands were near his groin area. When the officer asked Ramsey what he was doing, Ramsey allegedly replied, "Man, I was about to use the bathroom."
The officer asked for Ramsey's identification and was mistakenly told he had an outstanding bench warrant. Ramsey consented to be searched and that was when the handgun was discovered, Legal Times reported.
"At that point, we conclude, because appellant would not have felt free to leave, the encounter became a seizure — for which Officer [Kevin] Lally no longer had reasonable, articulable suspicion," Thompson said. Lally was the arresting officer.
Sources: Legal Times