Case Caption: People of the Virgin Islands v. Jah’var LoobyCase Number: S. Ct. Crim. No. 2016-0043Date: 06/08/2018Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary: Because the Superior Court properly exercised its authority to reconsider its ruling on a motion to suppress evidence seized in a pat-down frisk of the defendant, the People’s notice of appeal from the ruling on reconsideration was timely and comports with Virgin Islands Rule of Appellate Procedure 5(b)(2). A review of the totality of the circumstances supports a finding of reasonable suspicion for the search in this case, because marijuana remains contraband in this Territory under 19 V.I.C. § 595 and possession of it is punishable as either a crime or civil infraction under 19 V.I.C. §§ 607(a) or 607a. When suspicious conduct is noticed, leading a law enforcement officer reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot, the officer may stop the individual to identify himself and make reasonable inquiries. The validity of a pat-down frisk search is considered independently under the totality of the circumstances. Because possession of marijuana remains unlawful in this Territory, reasonable suspicion to conduct a stop may be established if an officer relied upon his or her experience and training to detect the presence of that contraband. In this case, the defendant told an officer – after the stop but before a pat-down frisk – that he possessed a marijuana cigarette. Admissions of crime carry their own indicia of credibility sufficient to support a finding of probable cause to search, thus the officer had probable cause to believe that this defendant possessed contraband subject to seizure, especially considering that the officers, in fact, smelled marijuana coming from his person. That the officers exercised their discretion not to issue a citation for possession of marijuana does not render the search of the defendant’s person unlawful. Accordingly, the Superior Court erred in excluding the firearm discovered as a result of the lawful search, and it erred in denying the People’s motion to reconsider its ruling granting the defendant’s motion to suppress. The July 27, 2016 opinion and order granting suppression is reversed, and this action is remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion