Police Had Reasonable Suspicion to Justify Stop


Traffic Stop

Case: People v. Parsons

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Issues:

Search & seizure; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 11; Presumption that a warrantless search or seizure is unreasonable unless an exception applies; People v. Borchard-Ruhland; Investigatory stop; People v. Barbarich; Terry v. Ohio; Reasonable suspicion; People v. LoCicero (After Remand); Unprovoked flight from the police in an area known for drug trafficking; People v. Oliver; Illinois v. Wardlow; Sufficiency of the evidence; Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated; MCL 257.625(1); Presumption that a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or more is intoxicated; MCL 257.625(1)(a) & (b); Whether a driver is “under the influence”; People v. Lambert; Great weight of the evidence; People v. Musser

Summary:

The court held that the trial court did not err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress evidence flowing from a police officer’s initial attempt to stop him while driving. It also held that the evidence supporting his conviction for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) was sufficient, and that the verdict was not against the great weight of the evidence. He was also convicted of third-degree fleeing and eluding, possession of a controlled substance, and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license (OWLS), second offense. The trial court sentenced him as a fourth habitual offender to 6 to 15 years for fleeing and eluding, 169 days for possession of a controlled substance, 169 days for OWLS, and 93 days for OWI. On appeal, the court rejected his argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress. It noted he was parked with his headlights off in an unlit area outside a store that was closed in an area known for drug activity. In addition, when the officer pulled up, defendant turned on his headlights and drove away, accelerating loudly and quickly. The officer “reasonably linked these events to conclude that [he] was attempting to avoid him, and the trial court did not err by construing defendant’s loud acceleration out of the parking lot to be unprovoked flight from the police.” In sum, “considering the totality of the circumstances,” the officer “had a reasonable suspicion that [defendant] may have committed or was committing a crime that justified” his attempt to make the stop. The court also rejected his claim that the evidence supporting the conviction for OWI was insufficient. It noted the officer saw open beer cans in his truck, “he smelled like alcohol, and he admitted he had been drinking.” He also had marijuana in his pocket, he admitted he threw marijuana and a marijuana pipe out the window and had smoked marijuana earlier that day, his driving was reckless, and he failed a field sobriety test. “This circumstantial evidence and the resulting reasonable inferences were sufficient for the trial court to find” defendant guilty of OWI. Finally, for the same reasons it concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction, it likewise rejected his argument that the verdict was against the great weight of the evidence. Affirmed.

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