Court Upholds Police Stop of Vehicle


Case: People v. Lavallis (Unpublished Opinion)

Issues:

Bind over decision; People v. Bennett; People v. Woods; People v. Cervi; Search & seizure; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 11; People v. Henry (After Remand); People v. Simmons; Whether the officer conducted an unreasonable search by checking the vehicle’s license plate number on LEIN without probable cause; Reasonable expectation of privacy; People v. Jones; Reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop; People v. Maggit; People v. Mazzie; Effect of conflicting evidence at the preliminary exam; People v. Henderson; Resisting or obstructing an officer; MCL 750.81d(1); People v. Quinn

Summary:

The court held that the district court’s determination there was no basis for the police officer’s stop of defendant’s vehicle was erroneous as a matter of law and thus, the district court abused its discretion by dismissing the charges on that basis. The court reversed the circuit court’s order denying the prosecution’s delayed application for leave to appeal the district court’s orders dismissing defendant’s charges of resisting and obstructing a police officer and operating a motor vehicle without a valid license, and remanded. The prosecution argued that “the district court abused its discretion in failing to bind over defendant to the circuit court on the charges, arguing that the district court erroneously determined that the officer conducted an unreasonable search by checking the vehicle’s license plate number on LEIN without probable cause.” The court agreed. The district court “erred in determining that the officer conducted an unreasonable search when he ran a computer check of the license plate number of the car defendant was driving without probable cause to believe defendant had committed a crime.” Once the officer “determined from LEIN that the vehicle was uninsured and that the owner of the vehicle did not have a valid driver’s license, the officer was justified in stopping defendant. Police are only required to have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity when conducting a valid traffic stop” and the criminal activity may include a traffic violation. When, as in this case, a LEIN check shows that “a car is uninsured and that the registered owner does not have a valid driver’s license, the officer has reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify stopping the vehicle.” Defendant argued that the officer did not have enough time to run his license plate number through LEIN, suggesting that he did not conduct the check before stopping him. However, the officer testified that “he can run a license plate number through LEIN ‘in about 10 seconds.’” His in-car video recording showed “him following behind defendant’s vehicle for roughly 30 seconds, and for approximately 15 to 20 seconds of this time he arguably was close enough to read the license plate on defendant’s vehicle,” supporting a finding that he “had sufficient time to check the license plate number through LEIN.” Further, the recording showed that his statements upon walking up to defendant’s vehicle suggested that he had checked the license plate number before stopping defendant. In any event, when there is conflicting evidence at a preliminary exam, “the defendant should be bound over for resolution of such issues by the trier of fact.”

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