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.