WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court upheld a Maryland bank robber’s conviction, rejecting his claim that police violated his rights by keeping his driver’s license before arresting him.
Otis Lee Weaver Jr. argued that evidence from the encounter should not have been allowed at his trial. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in a Thursday ruling that upheld his conviction on three Montgomery County bank robberies.
Weaver’s attorney Daniel Stiller called the court’s decision “disappointing.” He said they are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.
“It is our hope the high court would recognize that when the police deprive a citizen of his identification, the citizen would not consider himself free to terminate the encounter and walk away without his identification,” Stiller said.
Weaver was convicted of robbing a Bethesda bank in 1998 and of twice robbing a Rockville bank, in 1997 and again in 1998.
His convictions came after he was stopped in June 1998 by police in Virginia in connection with a bank robbery in Springfield, Va. It was during that stop that Weaver said he was illegally detained.
An officer got a report that a man matching the description of the Springfield bank robber was back in the area. He stopped Weaver seconds later, and asked if they could talk. Weaver agreed, according to court documents.
Weaver, who was on foot, agreed to provide his driver’s license to the officer. After checking for outstanding warrants and finding none, the officer held on to the license and asked Weaver to accompany him to a nearby bank. Weaver agreed to go, and never asked for the license back.
The officer then asked Weaver to go to a second bank, where an employee identified him as the robber. The officer still had his license at that point.
Weaver was handcuffed and searched, then arrested when a small quantity of marijuana was found in his pocket.
Pictures of Weaver taken that day were shown to employees of the Maryland banks, who identified him as the robber. He was convicted in August 2000 of the three Maryland robberies and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $8,168 in restitution.
The trial court rejected Weaver’s argument that the Virginia officer detained him against his will by holding his license, ruling that the encounter between Weaver and the officer was consensual.
The appeals court Thursday upheld the district court.
“Weaver was a pedestrian and could have walked away from the encounter,” the appellate court said. “Admittedly, doing so may have created an awkward situation . . . but awkwardness alone does not invoke the protections of the Fourth Amendment.”
The court noted that the situation might be different if Weaver was driving and police held his license, but that was not the case here.
The appeals court also rejected Weaver’s two other claims. He said the judge improperly helped the prosecution by suggesting that one piece of evidence needed to be corroborated, and then giving prosecutors time to do so. Weaver also said the district court should not have admitted certain evidence of other crimes during his Maryland trial.
Sullivan said Weaver is currently serving a 25-year sentence without parole for his conviction in the 1998 Springfield bank robbery.