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Hooks v. United States

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

May 30, 2019

Anthony D. Hooks, Appellant
v.
United States, Appellee.

          Argued February 14, 2019

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CF2-6952-17)(Hon. Danya A. Dayson, Trial Judge)

          Christine Pembroke for appellant.

          Bianca Forde, Assistant United States Attorney, for appellee.

          Jessie K. Liu, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, John P. Mannarino, Gauri Gopal, Puja Bhatia, and Maryam L. Adeyola, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief for appellee.

          Before Thompson, Easterly, and McLeese, Associate Judges.

          EASTERLY, ASSOCIATE JUDGE

         Anthony Hooks appeals from his convictions, following a jury trial, for felon in possession of a weapon and related offenses.[1]He argues that the trial court should have granted his motion to suppress the contraband found on his person because the police violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment when they seized and searched him. We agree and reverse.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         On a Sunday afternoon in April 2017, Mr. Hooks attended a barbeque outside the home of his friend, Latisha Toney, on Congress Street Southeast. As the setting is relevant to the legal issues presented, we describe it in some detail. Ms. Toney's residence is the end unit of a set of townhouses. From the street, her neighbors' houses are to the left, and a grassy yard surrounded by a metal fence is to the right. Whereas all her neighbors' front doors face Congress Street, Ms. Toney's front door faces the enclosed yard. To reach Ms. Toney's home and the yard from the street, a visitor must climb six steps from the sidewalk and walk down a concrete path. The path is lined on either side by fencing that opens up on the left to give access to another set of steps up to Ms. Toney's front door, and on the right to give access to the yard.[2]

         Having eaten some hot dogs and hamburgers, Mr. Hooks was sitting in a folding lawn chair on this concrete path. The other guests, a handful of adults and at least one child, were in the enclosed yard. Around 5:00 p.m., four police officers in the Narcotics Special Investigation Division drove past in an unmarked police car. According to the undisputed testimony of Ms. Toney, the police car stopped a few houses past her yard and then reversed back towards her home. Officer Dominique Tyson and three other members of his team, Officers Travis Collins, Brock Vigil, and Sean Hodges, all armed and in uniform, exited the vehicle.[3] With Officer Tyson in the lead, the four proceeded up the steps from the sidewalk onto the concrete pathway between Ms. Toney's house and the enclosed yard, and headed straight for Mr. Hooks in his lawn chair.

         Officer Tyson instructed Mr. Hooks to "get up."[4] At the suppression hearing, Officer Tyson acknowledged he intended these two words as a command:

Q. [T]here was no question that he was going to get up?
A. Yes, he was going to have to move.
Q. He was going to have to move?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay. And, if he hadn't moved, you would have snatched him; right? You would have helped him move?
A. He would have got help, yes.

         In response to Officer Tyson's instruction, Mr. Hooks immediately stood up. During this encounter, Officer Tyson observed a bag of marijuana sticking out of Mr. Hooks's coat pocket.[5] Based on Mr. Hooks's admission that he was carrying a little more than two ounces of marijuana, [6] the police handcuffed Mr. Hooks, and in a search incident to arrest recovered a handgun.

         Prior to trial, Mr. Hooks moved to suppress all tangible items seized by the police as fruits of an illegal seizure and search. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion. The court agreed that the government had proved that either (1) Mr. Hooks had not been seized when the police commanded him to stand up and he complied, or (2) pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the police had reasonable articulable suspicion to briefly stop Mr. Hooks because, by virtue of where he was sitting in his lawn chair, he was violating D.C. Code § 22-1307 (2013 Supp.) by "obstructing [a] walkway."

         II. ...


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