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Law School Case Brief

State v. Denny - 27 Or. App. 455, 556 P.2d 719 (1976)


Where, however, the police know that a crime of serious gravity has just been committed and that quick tactical reaction is necessary to apprehend the offender, then factors which would be of marginal significance in a general investigation take on heightened importance. 


The defendant and another robbed the Circle K store at gunpoint and departed. The clerk immediately called the Albany Police Department and officers arrived at the scene before she had hung up the telephone. Policemen were ordered to deploy themselves at several intersections along the most likely routes of flight from the grocery store. Officer Zucker was directed to proceed to the intersection of Queen and Pacific Boulevard, both of which are commonly-used routes leading from the Circle K. He was told that the robbery had just occurred and that there were two suspects, one tall, one short, and that they were possibly Latino or Hispanic. He was also informed that they had been disguised with masks and were armed with a pistol. The store clerk was brought to the scene five or ten minutes later and she identified the suspects as the robbers by their builds, by the clothing they were wearing, and by the presence of an orange ski cap which was visible in the automobile. The suspects were then arrested. The car was searched. Weapons and distinctive clothing were seized in plain sight and currency was found under the floor mat, which defendant moved to suppress.


Was the original stop of the automobile based on sufficient police knowledge to justify a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was connected with a crime?




The court found that the quantum of knowledge constituting cause was minimal. Where, however, the police knew that a serious crime had just been committed and that quick tactical reaction was necessary to apprehend the offender, then factors, which would be of marginal significance in a general investigation, took on heightened importance. The question was no longer whether there was reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed, but rather whether there was a reasonable possibility that the person under observation was connected with the crime. There was reason to suspect that defendant and his companion could be the persons involved in the immediately recent robbery. Defendant also contested his enhanced three-year sentence for committing a crime while armed with a concealable, unlicensed firearm, in addition to his sentence for armed robbery. The court adhered to its prior construction of the revisions of Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 161.505 to 161.685 and vacated the sentence.

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