Monday, January 22, 2007

U.S. v. Atwell (Maryland U.S.D.C.)

Decided January 5, 2007 --Opinion by Magistrate Judge Susan Gauvey

Defendant Atwell was charged with driving under the influence under Md. Code Ann. Transportation §21-902(a) and failing to drive right of center under Md. Code Ann. Transportation §21-301(a) and the Assimilative Crime Acts, 18 U.S.C. §§7 and 13. Here the Court considered Atwell’s motion to suppress all evidence and observations on the ground that he was stopped off of federal property.

Atwell argued two primary points: (1) when a police officer effectuates a stop outside of his territorial jurisdiction, all evidence obtained after the arrest must be suppressed as illegally obtained; and (2) a police officer outside of his jurisdiction may not stop an individual for a minor traffic offense. The government has acknowledged that the stop and arrest took place beyond the special territorial jurisdiction of the United States. It argued that the arresting officer nonetheless had authority to arrest under Seip v. State of Maryland, 153 Md. App. 83 (Md. App. 2003).

In this 44-page opinion, the Court agreed with Atwell that Seip v. State does not authorize federal military officers to make an extra-territorial arrest. Further, the Court found that there is no authority under any federal or state statute or governing Maryland common law for the extra-territorial arrest. Nonetheless, the Court found that the arrest was not unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus the Court refused to suppress the evidence derived as a result of the arrest and DENIED Atwell’s motion.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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