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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:While on “proactive” patrol at approximately 8:30 p.m. on the September night in question, New Orleans Police Department Sergeant Anthony Micheu observed NOPD Unit 286, occupied by Officers Gabe Swensen and Oscar Ortiz, attempting to stop a vehicle at the intersection of Louisiana Avenue and Danneel Street. Micheu parked his patrol car on the left side of the stopped vehicle and observed Henry Meredith in the front passenger seat of that car, “moving around from within the passenger compartment of the vehicle.” Meredith became “very nervous” when Micheu approached the stopped vehicle from the front. At this time, Swensen told Micheu that the vehicle had been stopped for operating without tail lights and improperly changing lanes. Micheu instructed Swensen and Ortiz to order the driver and Meredith to get out of the vehicle for the officers’ safety. The driver complied, but Meredith told the officers that he was a paraplegic, implying that he was physically unable to comply with the exit order on his own. Meredith added that his paraplegia resulted from a gunshot wound to the back. While Swensen was patting down the driver at the rear of the vehicle, Micheu opened the passenger-side door and immediately observed a bulge shaped like a handgun in the left rear side of Meredith’s pants. Micheu then reached inside the vehicle and patted down Meredith. The officer recognized what he felt was a handgun and removed a fully loaded .357- caliber revolver from Meredith’s pants. After seizing the firearm, the officers conducted a background check on Meredith and discovered that he was a convicted felon and thus unlawfully was possessing the revolver. Micheu informed Meredith that he was under arrest and advised him of his Miranda rights. Meredith told Micheu that he knew he was going to jail but that having been shot once before he carried the gun for protection. The following January, a grand jury indicted Meredith on a single count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. In April, Meredith filed a motion to suppress the revolver, the ammunition and his post-arrest statement. Specifically, Meredith contended that when Micheu opened the passenger-side door, he lacked reasonable suspicion to believe that Meredith possessed a weapon or posed any danger to the officers. Meredith argued that, absent reasonable suspicion, Micheu’s search was unconstitutional and its fruits thus inadmissible in evidence. In July 2005, the district court denied Meredith’s motion to suppress. The court ruled that under the totality of the circumstances � the time of night and dangerous location of the stop, Meredith’s movement and nervousness, and the nature of the offense for which the vehicle was stopped � Micheu had reasonable suspicion to believe that Meredith was armed and posed a threat to the officers’ safety. A week after the district court’s ruling, Meredith pleaded guilty without a plea agreement but reserved his right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion. The district court sentenced Meredith to 33 months of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. Meredith appealed. HOLDING:Affirmed. The Fourth Amendment, the court stated, permits law enforcement officers who have lawfully detained a motor vehicle to order the driver and any passengers to step out, and neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion is required. Several opinions by the U.S. Supreme Court, the court stated, sanction this practice as reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, because concerns for officer safety outweigh the minimal intrusion on the privacy of drivers and passengers. The same safety concerns, as well as the lack of any feasible, less intrusive alternative, support permitting a law enforcement officer, who orders an occupant to exit a vehicle and is met with the occupant’s claim of being physically unable to do so, to open that occupant’s door and conduct a minimally necessary visual inspection of just his person, the court stated. If such an inspection produces articulable facts, the court stated, that lead the officer to form a reasonable suspicion that the occupant is armed and dangerous or is concealing contraband, the officer may then conduct a pat down of the occupant to the same extent as the officer would for a person able to exit his vehicle. OPINION:Wiener, J.; Jones, C.J., and Wiener and Barksdale, J.J.

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