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United States v. Aviles-Vega

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 13, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
JOSÉ LUIS AVILÉ S-VEGA, Defendant, Appellant

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge.

Page 70

Jedrick H. Burgos-Amador for appellant.

Juan Carlos Reyes-Ramos, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, and Nelson Pérez-Sosa, Assistant United States Attorney, were on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Howard and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 71

LYNCH, Chief Judge.

This case presents an unusual twist on the not uncommon question of whether to suppress the results of a search based on information of a firearms sighting provided by an individual unknown to the police who provides no self-identifying information.

Acting on information provided by an anonymous caller, police officers frisked José Avilés-Vega after ordering him to get out of a parked car, and discovered a Ruger pistol, loaded with 13 rounds of 9mm caliber ammunition, in his possession. Avilés-Vega was charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), since he was a convicted felon. Avilés-Vega moved to suppress the evidence of the firearm from the frisk, arguing that the information provided by the unidentified caller was not sufficiently reliable to provide the officers with the reasonable suspicion necessary under the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied his motion. United States v. Aviles-Vega, No. 12-555(FAB), 2013 WL 322525 (D.P.R. Jan. 28, 2013). Avilés-Vega then pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, and was sentenced to fifty-seven months imprisonment and a three-year term of supervised release. Avilés-Vega preserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.

We affirm the district court's denial of Avilés-Vega's motion to suppress. In so holding, we stress that the unidentified caller in this case stated, as he was driving, that he had just observed conduct (which was a crime) occur in the car in front of him with sufficient detail for police officers to identify the vehicle. This report was sufficiently reliable to create reasonable suspicion of criminal activity under Puerto Rico law, thereby justifying the police officers' decision to stop and frisk the car's occupants.

I.

We take the basic facts from the magistrate judge's findings after an evidentiary hearing, supplemented by the record on appeal. These facts are not disputed.

On July 13, 2012, at 6:00 p.m., Officer Pedro López-Molinari (" López" ) was working as a desk ...


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