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Virginia adopts the police collective knowledge doctrine

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Aug 02, 2016 Virginia adopts the police collective knowledge doctrine

Today, the Virginia Court of Appeals adopted the police collective knowledge doctrine that already applies in federal courts. Edmond v. Virginia, ___ Va. App. ___ (Aug. 2, 2016).

Under the collective knowledge, “an officer is justified in acting upon an instruction from another officer if the instructing officer had sufficient information to justify taking such action himself.”

While Edmond’s appeal deals with the collective knowledge doctrine in the context of a stop for reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity afoot, Edmond‘s overall language indicates that the doctrine also will apply in Virginia for questions of probable cause to arrest and to searches pursuant to probable cause.

When a prosecutor claims the collective knowledge doctrine, the defense needs to be ready to attack whether the communicating police officer(s) would themselves have had a sufficient Fourth Amendment basis to stop or detain the suspect.

In addition, the following items are ripe for attacking prosecutorial assertions of the applicability of the collective knowledge doctrine: The doctrine does not justify a stop, frisk or search that arises where the other police officer does not have a lawful basis himself or herself for the action against the suspect. Nor does the doctrine apply to information in the possession of a police officer who says nothing and who does not effectuate the stop or arrest. Nor does the doctrine apply to information from civilians. All these three items are ripe for attacking the collective knowledge doctrine.

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