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Law School Case Brief

State v. Dean - 645 A.2d 634 (Me. 1994)

Rule:

To make a valid investigatory stop, an officer must act on the basis of specific and articulable facts which, taken with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion. The officer must suspect that criminal conduct has happened, is happening or is imminent. The court must find that the officer actually entertained the suspicion and that the suspicion was reasonable under the circumstances. The court may infer the necessary suspicion from the officer's testimony, and the police officer need not explicitly testify that he had the requisite suspicion. The conduct actually observed may be entirely lawful.

Facts:

An officer spotted defendant's car while the officer was patrolling a new residential development. The road was a dead end, and the development was uninhabited during weekdays. The officer was patrolling the area at the request of the development's property owners after a number of complaints of vandalism. After stopping defendant, it became clear that defendant was intoxicated. While the trial court found that the officer had the necessary reasonable suspicion to justify the stop, the intermediate appellate court found that it was no more than an insufficient hunch and entered a judgment of acquittal. The State challenged the reversal.

Issue:

Did the officer have the necessary reasonable suspicion to justify stopping defendant’s car?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

On review, the Supreme Court of Maine reversed the judgment of acquittal and ordered the conviction reinstated. According to the court, the trial court's findings that the officer actually entertained a suspicion that defendant was engaged in some sort of criminal activity, and that the officer's suspicion was reasonable were not clearly erroneous. The Court found that the two articulable facts relied on by the trial court, that defendant was present in an area of recent crime reports and the apparent absence of any reason to be in an uninhabited area at night, yielded a reasonable suspicion.

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