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February 26, 2009

Great Moments in American Legal Thought, vol. 436 [jdub]

People v. Foranyic.

A police officer acted reasonably under U.S. Const., 4th Amend., in detaining a man he observed with an ax riding a bicycle at 3 a.m. A reasonable police officer, considering the totality of the circumstances, would reasonably suspect criminal activity might be afoot upon viewing someone riding a bicycle, with an ax, at 3 a.m., even though no recent “ax crime” had been reported. The officer could reasonably eliminate firefighting and logging from the list of possible pursuits the man might have been engaged in, and while there were doubtless some reasonable explanations that might be conjured up, the possibility of an innocent explanation did not deprive the officer of the capacity to entertain a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.

Next: Stygian Darkness.

This incident did take place during the hours of
darkness. Stygian darkness. No one who has ever
worked a graveyard shift can underestimate the significance
of any bicycle traffic at that hour, much
less lethally armed bicycle traffic.


Continued below the jump.

[…] While acknowledging the defendant's right to be in such an area conversing with acquaintances, the court explained, “Three a.m., on the other hand, is both a late and an unusual hour for anyone to be in attendance at an outdoor social gathering, particularly in a residential neighborhood where he does not reside.” (Id. at p. 155.)

We consider it equally unusual to be abroad at that hour on
any errand that requires an ax.

[...] Nor can we ignore the long history of the ax as
a weapon. While no one refers to a “gun-murderer”
or “knife-murderer” or “crowbar-murderer,” the
equivalent usage with regard to an ax is well ensconced
in American usage. The ax, like the machete
and the straight razor, is an implement whose
unfortunate utility as a weapon sometimes overshadows
its value as a tool.

Again. Racist.

Thus, while it is true no “ax crime” had been reported, and while it is true the officer was not asked what specific crime he might have thought he was investigating when he ordered Foranyic to dismount, it was nonetheless reasonable, logical and legal for the officer to require Foranyic to spend a few minutes explaining himself and these circumstances, which were not *191 only unusual, but unique in the annals of reported California decisions. Some things cannot be ignored. The judgment is affirmed.

I should have listened to mom and gone to law school. Oh, wait. I did. Well, a law school.

I'm pretty sure the Ninth Circuit reversed a similar decision in People v. Voorhees.

digg this
posted by xgenghisx at 09:45 PM

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