United States v. McCoy – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. McCoy, 513 F.3d 405, 407 (4th Cir. 2008), a police officer witnessed a series of otherwise innocent behaviors which, based on a totality of the circumstances, supported reasonable suspicion to detain and frisk the defendant.

In that case, an experienced police officer was conducting surveillance in a grocery store parking lot, where, he testified, many illegal drug transactions in the area occurred.

The officer saw a truck park in front of the defendant's car and overheard the truck driver and the defendant discuss where to meet. Id. at 408.

The officer then observed both vehicles leave the parking lot and drive to another grocery store parking lot. Id. The defendant then entered the truck, spoke with the driver, and exited the truck after about a minute. Id. The truck driver then began to drive away. Id.

In that case, the district court suppressed the fruits of the seizure, noting that the officer did not hear the entirety of the defendant's conversation with the driver, did not observe a hand-to-hand drug transaction, and did not have any knowledge that either party was involved with drugs. Id. at 412.

The Fourth Circuit reversed, noting that the district court erred in emphasizing what "factual circumstances did not exist" and in considering "the 'innocent' facts here without considering how an experienced police officer might approach the same factual circumstances." Id. at 413.