State v. Donahue

In State v. Donahue, 251 Conn. 636, 742 A.2d 775 (1999) (en banc), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 924 (2000), in which the defendant turned his vehicle abruptly into a deserted parking lot in the early morning in an area that had experienced a recent dramatic increase in crime, the Court concluded that the totality of the circumstances did not give rise to reasonable suspicion on the part of the arresting police officer because the defendant had not committed any traffic violation, had not been driving erratically, and had not exhibited any furtive conduct or exited the vehicle. State v. Donahue, supra, 251 Conn. 647. In State v. Donahue, a state police officer was on routine patrol at 1:50 a.m. on December 10, 1997, in Windham. Specifically, he was patrolling a cemetery next to a public housing project where drug dealing and prostitution often took place. As he was leaving the cemetery, he noticed a car turn abruptly into a vacant parking lot of a social club that had closed for the evening. Id., 639. The defendant had a passenger in the car. The officer drove his car across the street toward the defendant's car. When he entered the parking lot of the social club, the officer made a U-turn so that he could pull his car behind the defendant's car, which was facing the exit of that lot. Id., 640. The officer activated his overhead flashing lights when he pulled up behind the defendant. Id. Before exiting his car, the officer radioed the defendant's license number to the police barracks and learned that the car was not stolen and that there was no outstanding warrants. The officer approached the defendant's car and asked him for his license and registration. The defendant rolled down his window when he saw the officer. At that point, the officer detected alcohol on the defendant's breath, and after the defendant failed a sobriety test, the officer arrested the defendant for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. Id. At his trial, the defendant moved to suppress evidence obtained after his initial detention on the ground that the detention had been unlawful. He claimed that the officer lacked a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop his vehicle and that he was denied his federal and state constitutional rights. That motion was denied and the defendant appealed. Id., 640-41. The Court found that the police officer's "detention of the defendant was based on nothing more than the location of the defendant's vehicle at an early hour in the morning." Id., 645. The state argued five factors as to why the officer had a reasonable suspicion to pull the car over. The Court determined that none of these factors generated the requisite reasonable and articulable suspicion that the defendant was engaged or about to engage in criminal activity. In Donahue, "the state argued that the following five factors produced a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was engaged or about to engage in criminal activity: (1) he was driving in a deserted area late at night; (2) he made an abrupt turn into the parking lot; (3) he pulled into an empty, unlit parking lot of an establishment that had closed for the evening; (4) his vehicle was in an area that had experienced a rise in criminal activity; (5) his behavior was 'consistent with the type of behavior that often preceded the criminal activity the officer was out on patrol investigating.'" State v. Donahue, supra, 251 Conn. 647.