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Court Holds Passenger Cannot Challenge Consent Search of Vehicle

Interior of Vehicle

Case: People v. Mead

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )

Judges: O’Connell, Talbot, and K.F. Kelly


Whether a passenger had standing to challenge the search of a backpack in a vehicle where the driver gave the officer consent to search the vehicle; People v. LaBelle; Whether the officer reasonably believed the driver had common authority over the backpack in order for her consent to justify the search; Illinois v. Rodriguez; United States v. Matlock; State v. Harding (UT); Search & seizure; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 11; People v. Hyde; People v. Brown; Expectation of privacy; Principle that a warrantless search of abandoned property does not violate the Fourth Amendment; People v. Rasmussen; People v. Lewis; The protective or Terry search exception to the warrant requirement; Michigan v. Long; Terry v. Ohio; Probable cause; People v. Nguyen; People v. Lyon; People v. Tavernier; Arizona v. Gant; Smith v. Ohio; People v. Champion; People v. Garvin; People v. Armendarez; People v. Bullock; Inventory search; Colorado v. Bertine; Florida v. Wells; People v. Poole; The inevitable discovery rule; People v. Mahdi


Holding on remand from the Michigan Supreme Court that this case was not distinguishable from LaBelle, and that the Rodriguez common authority framework did not apply, the court affirmed the defendant's conviction, even though no other grounds justified the officer’s search of his backpack. He was convicted of possessing meth and sentenced as a fourth-offense habitual offender to 2 to 10 years’ imprisonment. In a prior appeal, the court affirmed his conviction, finding that, as a passenger in a vehicle, he lacked standing to challenge the search of a container in the vehicle pursuant to LaBelle. However, the Michigan Supreme Court vacated and remanded for the court to consider whether LaBelle was distinguishable from this case, whether the police officer reasonably believed the driver had common authority over the backpack in order for the driver’s consent to justify the search, and whether there were any other grounds upon which the search may be justified. On remand, the court first found that LaBelle was not distinguishable. It noted defendant was a passenger in the vehicle, that he was not challenging the validity of the stop, and that the driver consented to a search of the vehicle, leading the officer to search an unlocked backpack in the vehicle’s passenger compartment. Thus, under LaBelle, defendant lacked standing to challenge the search, and the officer had authority to search the backpack. The court next noted that “[i]f Rodriguez and its extension to searches of containers in automobiles as applied in foreign courts were the law in Michigan, an argument that” the officer lacked a reasonable belief that the driver “had common authority over the backpack would have some merit.” However, “in Michigan, Rodriguez’s common authority framework does not apply to warrantless searches of containers in automobiles.” Thus, it declined to apply the common authority framework to this case. Finally, the court found that no other grounds justified the search. The abandoned property exception did not apply as defendant “demonstrated a possessory interest in the backpack by holding it on his lap while in the vehicle.” The protective or Terry exception did not apply because the officer never claimed he had a reasonable belief that the driver or defendant could gain immediate control of a weapon or that he believed his safety or the safety of others was in danger. The officer did not have probable cause. The record lacked evidence as to whether the search fell within the scope of a proper inventory search. And the inevitable discovery rule did not apply.

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