United States v. Anthony Knights (11th Cir. August 2020)

The Federal Docket

September 17, 2020

Fourth Amendment/Investigatory Stop – A police encounter is not performing an investigatory stop if the police do not make any show of authority, such as by displaying their weapons or speaking to the suspect, and if other people at the scene or with the suspect are free to leave.

Anthony Knights was smoking marijuana with two of his friends while standing near a car. Officers on a routine patrol saw that two of the car doors were open and thought Knights might be stealing from it. As the officers drove past, Knights gave them a blank stare and seemed nervous. One of his friends then walked away. When the officers approached the car, Knights closed the door. Officers knocked on the window and, when Knights opened the door, the offices smelled burnt marijuana. When one of the officers asked if Knights had marijuana, Knights responded that it was all gone.

The officers then searched for narcotics and arrested Knights. They found marijuana, a scale, firearms, and ammunition. After being given Miranda warnings, Knights agreed to an interview with the officers. Knights was charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition as a felon. He “moved to suppress his admissions and the evidence found” but was denied. He appealed.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial, holding that “a reasonable person would have felt free to leave” even after the cops approached Knights. The Court noted that one of Knights’s friends did in fact leave. The Court held that “the officers did not display their weapons, touch Knights, or even speak to him.” The Court further held that since the officers did not make any show of authority, there was no investigatory stop.

Appeal from the Middle District of Florida

 Opinion by Pryor, joined by Rosenbaum and Moore (by designation from S.D. Fla.)

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

Scroll to Top