Argued: December 15, 2016
Huertas appeals the order of the United States District Court
for the District of Connecticut (Arterton, J.), denying his
motion to suppress physical evidence. Huertas contends that
he was seized (after a show of police authority) when he
stood still to answer questions and ran when the police
opened the door of the police-car. Affirmed.
JENNIFER MELLON, for Terence S. Ward, Federal Defender,
District of Connecticut, New Haven, CT, for
P. REYNOLDS (with Marc H. Silverman, on the brief), for
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of
Connecticut, New Haven, CT, for Appellee.
Before: WINTER, JACOBS, and POOLER, Circuit Judges.
JACOBS, Circuit Judge
Branden Huertas appeals the denial of his motion to suppress
a firearm that, he contends, was found as a result of an
illegal seizure. After the United States District Court for
the District of Connecticut (Arterton, J.) denied
his motion to suppress, Huertas conditionally pleaded guilty
to being a felon in possession of a weapon. He contends he
was seized when a police officer in a squad car, who had been
alerted to a man lurking with a gun, shined a spotlight on
Huertas and asked questions to which Huertas responded. We
conclude that because Huertas never submitted to police
authority, he was never seized. We therefore affirm.
2014, a woman pulled her car alongside a police cruiser in
Bridgeport, Connecticut to ask about the process for amending
a police report. After Officer Thomas Lattanzio responded,
the woman drove away for a few feet, then reversed toward the
police car and told Officer Lattanzio that a man named
Branden was nearby with a gun. She pointed down the street,
but Officer Lattanzio did not see anyone. Without giving her
name, the woman drove away.
Lattanzio then drove in the direction the woman pointed,
searching for an armed man. He soon saw Huertas standing on a
street corner holding a black bag. Officer Lattanzio drove
toward Huertas, going the wrong way on the one-way street. As
the cruiser approached, Officer Lattanzio turned on the
cruiser's spotlight and illuminated Huertas. Through the
car's window, Officer Lattanzio asked Huertas a few
questions, such as "What's going on?" and
"What happened with the girl?" During Officer
Lattanzio's approach and questioning, Huertas stayed in a
fixed position and began answering the questions. The
encounter lasted between thirty seconds and one minute. As
soon as Officer Lattanzio got out of the cruiser, Huertas ran
police officers later found and arrested Huertas. A search of
Huertas's route turned up a bag similar to the one
Huertas had been holding. The bag contained a firearm.
only question on appeal is whether Huertas was seized.
Whether a seizure would have been in violation of the Fourth
Amendment is an issue not reached by the district court, and
is not before us. Because Huertas is appealing a suppression
ruling, "we review factual findings for clear error and
we review questions of law de novo." United States
v. Faux, 828 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir. 2016).
seizure . . . requires 'either physical force .
. . or, where that is absent, submission to
the assertion of [police] authority.'" United
States v. Swindle, 407 F.3d 562, 572 (2d Cir. 2005)
(emphasis in original) (quoting California v. Hodari
D., 499 U.S. 621, 626 (1991)). It is undisputed that
Officer Lattanzio used no physical force. Therefore, Huertas
was seized only if he (1) "submitted" (2) to an
"assertion of authority." We conclude that Huertas
never "submitted" to Officer Lattanzio and was
therefore never "seized" within the meaning of the
Fourth Amendment. In light of this disposition, we need not
consider whether the spotlighting of Huertas by a police car
going the wrong way down a dark street constituted an
"assertion of authority."
conduct constitutes submission to police authority will
depend . . . on 'the totality of the circumstances--the
whole picture.'" United States v. Baldwin, 496 F.3d
215, 219 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Cortez, 449
U.S. 411, 417 (1981)). Of particular relevance here, conduct
that "amount[s] to evasion of police authority" is
"not submission." Id. at 219.
argues that he "submitted" to police authority by
standing still as Officer Lattanzio's police cruiser
approached and by answering Officer Lattanzio's
questions. However, we conclude that Huertas's
behavior was akin to the evasive actions in Baldwin,
which did not constitute submission. The defendant in
Baldwin pulled his car to the side of the road in
response to a police cruiser's siren and flashing lights.
496 F.3d at 217. Both police officers walked toward
Baldwin's car and ordered Baldwin to show his hands.
Id. When he refused and just stared at them, the
officers drew their weapons ...