Pulling Up Your Pants Isn’t Probable Cause. Not in MO, Anyway.

If you carry a concealed gun, you’ve been there. No matter how good your gun belt, where you wear your rig, or how small your mouse gun may be you will, from time to time, have the need to adjust your pants. Gravity’s a bitch that way. Sharp-eyed St. Louis PD officer Julie Reynolds knows this, too. And when she spied Elton Norfolk (not pictured above) yanking at his knickers, she knew he was rearranging more than his junk…

As riverfronttimes.com reports:

On August 19, 2009, Officer Julie Reynolds was on a routine patrol near the corner of Lexington and Vandeventer, in a neighborhood that had been the site of recent robberies. She noticed Norfolk standing on the corner, apparently adjusting his pants from the back. That’s when Reynolds made the determination that Norfolk was concealing a gun, even though she didn’t observe a visible bulge.

Reynolds would later testify: “When they adjust their pants, they adjust in the front. They don’t adjust in the back. That’s what I commonly see.”

After Reynolds observed Norfolk fiddling with his pants, she made a u-turn, parked her car and followed Norfolk into a convenience store. Then she asked him to step outside and put his hands against a wall. Reynolds then lifted Nofolk’s shirt, which revealed the butt of a gun sticking out from his waistband. Norfolk was also carrying a magazine, live cartridges and pot.

Norfolk was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon and posession of a controlled substance and sentenced to three years. Not, curiously, of carrying a concealed weapon without a license or illegal posession (he was on parole at the time of the arrest).

But the Missouri Court of Appeals has said, in effect, hold on there, kimosabe.  They ruled that even though Officer Reynolds was right, she didn’t have probable cause to search Norfolk just because he was digging at his breeches and that his fourth amendment rights were violated. Strangely, though, they let the conviction stand.

“The State failed to flesh out how many previous weapons arrests Officer Reynolds had engaged in and whether the individuals stopped only pulled up their pants in a way to suggest concealing a weapon with nothing more,” Judge George Draper III wrote in the unanimous opinion. “Moreover … [Reynolds] conceded Norfolk could have been merely pulling up his pants at the time she observed him.”

But even though, as a general rule, all evidence obtained by illegal searches and seizures is inadmissible in court, the appellate judges ruled that the violation of Norfolk’s civil rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Norfolk voluntarily stated under oath at trial that he possessed the gun and the drugs found after the search,” wrote Judge Draper. “This confession prevents us from providing Norfolk any claim of relief on his point of error.” Draper cited precedent from 1900 and suggested it might be time for the Missouri Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue.

Ya think, your honor?

Moral of the story: picking at your pants – at least in certain parts of St. Louis – can get you spread-eagled against a wall. And no matter what happens, remember to STFU until your lawyer gets there.

comments

  1. avatar Tim McNabb says:

    Why she did not simply ask to speak with the young man and nab the weapon in a “Terry search” is something I’d like to hear from any LEO.

    When I was trained as a rent-a-cop, I understood that an officer could perform a search for weapons if an individual consented to speak with the officer. It mattered to us lowly rent-a-cops because we might find shoplifted items in a Terry search, which under Terry v Ohio is admissible as evidence.

    1. avatar Sparky says:

      I disagree. Consenting to speak with an officer is a Tier I encounter – no search is allowed since there is no RAS or PC (unless consent is given to search).

    2. avatar copsoldier says:

      Only in the “Show Me” state. There is a funny German commercial on youTube where these two guys are squaring off for a duel. One of the participants grabs to remove a
      weggie. The other guy thinks he is going for his sixgun so he shoots him. Moral of the story? “Ill fitting underwear can be deadly.”

      weggie

  2. avatar 2Wheels says:

    Belt+holster kid, that’s where you screwed up.

    1. avatar Mr. Normal says:

      I think he’s got a few more issues than choice in leather. 😉

    2. avatar HSR47 says:

      Hell, I carry IWB pretty much every day, and I usually need to adjust my pants several times a day. In my case, it has little to do with my belt and holster, and almost everything to do with my waistline.

  3. avatar tdiinva says:

    While STFU is always a good policy when dealing with the police. However, if you are legally carrying a gun and you get stopped by the fuzz just show him/her your permit. That should end it.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      unless you’re a felon and shouldn’t be holding a gun..

      1. avatar MikeSilver says:

        Its called the 4th Amendment and if you aren’t going to use it …. I damn will.

        We don’t live in Nazi Germany, yet.

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          Yet.

  4. avatar sdog says:

    this sagging pants trend has always confused me. for a style that is dripping with hyper masculinity (hip hop culture/fashion), sagging pants one’s pants is a display in the opposite direction. Exposing one’s rear while walking around is a byproduct of prison culture where if you are doing this (hanging you butt out of your pants while walking around) you are an advertising the desire for gay sex.

    1. avatar NeonCat says:

      Wow, I don’t know where you got that but my understanding is that it comes from the weight loss people experience from eating lousy prison chow. Since prisoners aren’t allowed to have belts or new clothes that fit, their pants would sag. Therefore it became a fashion fad because it suggested you had been in the pokey for some really bad reason.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Not a desire for gay sex. No, no, no. The pants sag because they don’t have belts.

      And prison chow doesn’t make them skinny. Because the food is heavily oriented toward starch, it actually makes the prisoners fat, unless they’re pump monkeys heaving weights as often as possible.

  5. avatar Mr. Normal says:

    One of my favorite games is “let’s find the ccw guy” when we’re out in public.

    After the “tactical” casual outfit, and the obvious bulge, “adjusting” is how we spot most of the carriers.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      Never understood why people wear 5-11 type gear in public. It labels you as a wannabe. There are lots of everyday clothing styles that allow you to carry undetected. there are styles of golf shirts that can keep a full size 1911 hidden during the hottest summer months.

  6. avatar Nico says:

    Best part about being a fatter dude carrying: my pants don’t go anywhere. No adjusting ftw.

    Now if I can just figure out where to put it to be easier to draw without making me walk funnier…

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    In most jurisdictions, a confession obtained after an unlawful arrest would be considered a “fruit of the poisonous tree” and excluded. I have no love for real life criminals, but it seems to me that exclusion is the correct outcome unless we actually trust the cops and the government. Pesonally, I trust neither crooks, cops nor government.

    1. avatar Totenglocke says:

      I trust criminals much more than I trust police or politicians. Criminals don’t feel compelled to lie about their motivation.

      1. avatar Jed Henson says:

        That’s the strangest comment I’ve read on the Interwebs so far this week…

      2. avatar Joe nobody says:

        But arent all politicians criminals?

  8. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    We have the “freedom” to obey the government and the cops or they’ll fine and or lock your ass up. We gave up our freedom a long time ago and the way things are going we’ll never get them back. I guess we have the right to do as we’re told and not whine about it, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do to change things.

  9. avatar Bruce W. Krafft says:

    Two words for you kiddos (esp. Nico): Shoulder Holster. I too am an individual of above average girth (6’5″, 300 mumble-something pounds) and I have carried in a shoulder holster ever since I graduated from my mouse gun (i.e. about 3 months after I got my PTC). Unkle Mike’s (which is kind of pricey but when I went with a cheaper holster I spilled my weapon a couple of times: *really* embarrassing to have your Para P-14 go skittering across the linoleum as you’re leaving Menards) slightly modified with a dual spare mag holder which helps even out the load and gives me 70+1 for when the zombies are coming over the horizon.

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