PA Court Reminds Cops and Prosecutors, “The 4th Amendment does not have a time limit; it protects individuals from unreasonable seizures, no matter how brief."

From [HERE] “The Fourth Amendment does not have a time limit; it [allegedly] protects individuals from unreasonable seizures, no matter how brief.” The brief detention here wasn’t based on reasonable suspicion and implicated the Fourth Amendment. Commonwealth v. Adams, 2019 Pa. LEXIS 1734 (Mar. 26, 2019):

This discretionary appeal requires the Court to consider once again when an interaction between an ordinary citizen and a law enforcement official ripens from a mere encounter, requiring no level of suspicion, to an investigative detention, which must be supported by reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. We conclude, based on longstanding precedent of this Court and the United States Supreme Court, that the line is crossed when a reasonable person would not feel free to leave, and that a detention effectuated by police in the interest of officer safety is impermissible in the absence of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. We therefore reverse the decision of the Superior Court and remand the matter to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

. . .

The Commonwealth and the courts below improperly focus, in part, on the duration of the detention that occurred. That the detention was only temporary is irrelevant to our analysis of whether a seizure occurred. An investigative detention, by definition, encompasses only a “brief detention.” See United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7, 109 S. Ct. 1581, 104 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1989) (“In Terry[], we held that the police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity ‘may be afoot,’ even if the officer lacks probable cause.”); Strickler, 757 A.2d at 888 (“The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, including those entailing only a brief detention.”). The Fourth Amendment does not have a time limit; it protects individuals from unreasonable seizures, no matter how brief. See, e.g., United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 880-82, 95 S. Ct. 2574, 45 L. Ed. 2d 607 (1975) (finding an interaction between border patrol officers and individuals in their vehicles during roving-patrol stops and lasting “no more than a minute” to be an investigative detention requiring reasonable suspicion of criminal activity).

The analogies presented for our consideration by the Commonwealth are inapt. An officer’s act of closing the door of a person’s vehicle as the person begins to open it is not similar to a request that a person remove his hands from his pockets, as the latter request in no way constrains a person’s ability to leave the area. Further, although the Commonwealth is correct that the Fourth Amendment allows an officer to order the occupants of a vehicle to exit during a lawful traffic stop, it ignores that a traffic stop is an investigative detention that itself requires reasonable suspicion or probable cause. See Commonwealth v. Chase, 599 Pa. 80, 960 A.2d 108 (Pa. 2008). In Mimms, police initiated a vehicle stop after observing the defendant driving with an expired license plate. The high Court explained that where police have already lawfully and permissibly intruded upon the personal liberty of the vehicle’s occupants by conducting the stop of the vehicle and the driver is lawfully detained, the “additional intrusion” of having the individuals exit the vehicle at the officer’s direction does not constitute a separate seizure and “can only be described as de minimis.” Mimms, 434 U.S. at 111.

The key differentiation of the circumstances in the case at bar is that there was no preexisting permissible intrusion or restraint on Adams’ liberty. The Commonwealth does not contend, and the record does not support a finding, that Adams was already subjected to a lawful investigative detention at the time Officer Falconio closed the vehicle’s door. See Commonwealth’s Brief at 17-21 (asserting that the interaction began as a mere encounter). Thus, unlike in Mimms, Officer Falconio’s action was not an additional de minimus intrusion upon a person who police had already lawfully seized.