Before Terry, Steadman and Reid, Associate Judges.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steadman, Associate Judge
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(Hon. Ronna Lee Beck, Trial Judge)
Appellant was stopped by police and found in possession of drugs on two separate occasions in November 1997. *fn1 Appellant challenges the trial court's denial of his motions to suppress the evidence for both days on the ground that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. We hold that the trial court correctly found probable cause for the November 3 arrest and resultant search, but that on the record here, the motion to suppress should have been granted with respect to the November 8 stop. *fn2
At the pretrial hearing on appellant's motions to suppress, the following facts relative to each incident were developed.
Jeffrey Clay, a police officer for seventeen years, had been involved in several hundred arrests, many of them related to drugs. On November 3, 1997, at approximately 7 p.m., Officer Clay and an officer in training (Officer Lamont Carter) were in a squad car patrolling the area around 5th and I Streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C., which was known to be a high drug area. Appellant was standing approximately 50 feet away at the corner of 5th and I Streets, "displaying something in his right hand to a black female, who had U.S. currency in her hand." Officer Clay described appellant's actions at the time as "pushing his fingers over what was in his hand. . . . Like he was moving something around with his left hand in his right hand." Although the officer said that he initially felt the woman was carrying money simply because of "the way it was in her hand", he was sure it was money once they pulled up to appellant because "[s]he had it clenched, and some of the money was sticking outside of her hand." Officer Clay knew the woman from experience and complaints from neighborhood citizens as someone who frequented that particular corner - "she is suspected of doing illegal activity of different kinds, illegal activity."
[W]e pulled out of the alley and pulled right over to where they were. Then she clenched the money that was in her hand, like in a fist like, and he balled his hand up. They started walking northbound on 5th Street, and that would be in the 900 block. And as I pulled my car up toward the curb on the wrong side of the street, as where they were walking, Mr. Dexter Davis put the objects he had in his hand, or object, inside of his sleeve pocket. . . . [W]e jumped out of the car, and I asked both of them to put their hands up, put their hands on the car, and I patted down the sleeve right there where he had put the object.
On cross-examination, the officer explicitly stated that he was not looking for weapons when they began looking in appellant's sleeve. The following colloquy then took place at the suppression hearing:
Q: Let me stop you for a second. Why did you stop them?
A: Because I suspected them of making -- getting ready to make a drug transaction or were dealing with drugs on that corner.
Q: Why did you think that's what was happening?
A: 'Cause usually when somebody has U.S. currency on that corner and somebody's showing something to them in their hand, that's what goes on right there at that corner.
A: Because I've been out there 14, 15 years ...