Defendant Stopped for Slow Driving


Highway

Case: People v. Contreras

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Issues:

Motion to dismiss; People v. Nicholson; Search & seizure; People v. Henry (After Remand); People v. Williams; Vehicle stop; People v. Simmons; Reasonable suspicion; People v. Maggit; Violation of a traffic law; People v. Davis; Stop for driving too slow on a highway; Former MCL 257.628(8); MCL 257.627(1); An objectively reasonable mistake; Heien v. North Carolina; Inference that video footage from the police car’s camera was exculpatory evidence; Failure to preserve evidence; People v. Hanks; Adverse inference instruction; People v. Cress; Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI)

Summary:

Holding that the traffic stop was valid, that any mistake by the state trooper would have been reasonable under Heien, and that defendant failed to show bad faith as to the failure to produce the police car video footage of the stop, the court affirmed the circuit court’s order reinstating the charges against defendant. The district court granted his motion to dismiss the charges (OWI and violating basic speed laws). He argued that the trooper lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him for driving too slow on an interstate highway, contending that “he was justified driving slower than the 55 mph posted speed limit because the slower speed was necessary for the safe operation of” his vehicle. The court disagreed, noting that “even if the road conditions and the surrounding area justified defendant’s reduced speed, [the trooper] was only required to have reasonable suspicion that defendant may have committed a traffic violation.” Because he stopped him for traveling 51 mph, he “had reason to believe that defendant had committed a traffic violation, thereby justifying his stop of” the vehicle, and the circuit court did not err in so concluding. The court also agreed with the prosecution that “any mistake of law or fact in this case would have been reasonable under Heien.” It found that any mistake as to whether the road conditions necessitated a reduced speed under former MCL 257.628(8) was reasonable. “Defendant was not driving in a winter blizzard or in other extreme road conditions that would clearly merit a reduced speed.” While defense counsel claimed that “there was a risk that the roads were icy due to the temperature,” no evidence was produced showing that precipitation or other conditions “would have made it apparent that traveling at a slower speed was necessary” under the statute. The court also rejected defendant’s contention that the district court was allowed to infer that the missing video footage from the trooper’s in-car camera was exculpatory. He did not show that the trooper or the prosecution acted in bad faith in failing to produce the footage, and he failed to establish that the footage was actually exculpatory.

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