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Case Dismissed After Illegal Search


Case: People v. Wood

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )

Judges: K.F. Kelly and Stephens; Concurring in part, Dissenting in part - Murray


Motion to suppress; Mootness; People v. Richmond; Search & seizure; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 11; Probable cause; People v. Beuschlein; People v. Garvin; United States v. Ross; People v. Kazmierczak; The automobile exception to the warrant requirement; People v. Levine; “Huffing”; MCL 752.272 & 273; Inventory search; People v. Houstina; People v. Chapo; Warrantless arrests for misdemeanors that occur outside an officer’s presence; MCL 764.15(1)(d); People v. Mead


The court held that the trial court did not err by granting defendant’s motion to suppress and dismissing the charges against him. He was pulled over for speeding. During the traffic stop, the officer noticed pill bottles and nitrous oxide whippets in the car. When he declined the officer’s request to search the car, the officer ordered him out of the car and conducted a search, during which he found additional paraphernalia, including six codeine pills. On appeal, the court first declined defendant’s invitation to extend the Richmond rule to situations where the prosecution does not specifically seek to dismiss the case. “The order clearly states that it was defendant’s motion. This case is distinguishable from Richmond because it does not involve a voluntary dismissal by the prosecution. Instead, defendant requested that the circuit court dismiss the charges as part of the motion to suppress.” The court next rejected the prosecution’s argument that the officer had probable cause to search defendant’s car under the automobile exception based on defendant’s admission that he committed the crime of huffing and based on his observation of several nitrous canisters and pill bottles on the car’s floorboard. It distinguished Kazmierczak, noting that “whereas the possession of marijuana was a crime in and of itself, defendant’s possession of the nitrous canisters and pill bottles was perfectly legal. The canisters did not form the basis for probable cause to search” his car. Further, his statement that he had huffed four days prior “could not form the basis for probable cause” because the officer “never suspected that defendant was intoxicated or impaired when he pulled” him over or when he spoke with him, and there was “no testimony that he had been driving erratically.” Finally, the court rejected the prosecution’s contention that there was probable cause to arrest defendant for huffing nitrous oxide, which would have triggered an inventory search of the car and led to the inevitable discovery of the codeine pills. It found Mead instructive, noting that the “informative portion” of the panel’s decision “was when it addressed whether there were ‘other grounds justifying’” the search, and that the panel “rejected the prosecution’s claim that the arrest exception to the warrant requirement applied.” Finding these facts “eerily similar to those before” it in this case, the court saw “no reason to conclude differently.” Affirmed.

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