Identification Inquiry of Vehicle Passengers In Traffic Stop Upheld and Batson Claim Rejected

By FindLaw Staff on April 02, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The First Circuit decided two criminal cases today, one involving a defendant's Fourth Amendment violation claim and the other involving a defendant's Batson claim. 

US v. Fernandez, No. 09-1058, concerned a defendant's challenge to the district court's denial of his motion to suppress a gun recovered from defendant following a traffic stop, in his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  In rejecting the defendant's argument that the district court erred in failing to find that his state law and Fourth Amendment rights were violated by a police officer's inquiry into his identification, the court held that a police officer may ask identifying information from passengers in a vehicle stopped for traffic violations without particularized suspicion that the passengers pose a safety risk or are violating a law.

US v. Charlton, No. 08-1797, involved a conviction of a defendant for being a felon in possession of a firearm an given an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act.  Defendant's two challenges to his conviction were a Batson claim, arguing that the empanelment of the jury was tained by racial discrimination against African-Americans, and a challenge to the imposition of an enhanced sentence under the ACCA. 

In rejecting defendant's Batson claim, the court held that the district court did not commit an error in allowing the government's peremptory challenge against the juror at issue in finding that the government offered a race-neutral explanation that it did not want an attorney on the jury.  In rejecting defendant's second claim, the court held that the district court did not err in sentencing the defendant as an armed career criminal as it was bound by the Supreme Court's ruling in Almendarez-Torres v. U.S. which held that a sentencing enhancement may be grounded on prior criminal convictions neither separately charged nor proven to a jury.

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