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Crack in Windshield Justifies Police Seizure

Case: People v. Powell, Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )


Search & seizure; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Const. 1963, art. 1, § 11; People v. Champion; People v. Lewis; People v. Dillon; Principle that a traffic stop is a seizure of the driver & all passengers; Brendlin v. California; Principle that subjective intent is not relevant to the objective validity of a stop; Whren v. United States; Principle that the temporary seizure of a driver & passengers remains reasonable for the duration of a valid stop; People v. Corr; The plain-view exception to the warrant requirement; People v. Wilkens; People v. Mahdi; Principle that a police officer may order a passenger of a lawfully stopped vehicle to exit the vehicle; People v. Martinez; Maryland v. Wilson


The court held that defendant was not denied his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. He was convicted of FIP of a firearm, FIP of ammunition, CCW, possession of less than 25 grams of a controlled substance, and felony-firearm. On appeal, the court rejected his argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress because his detainment by police “emanated from a pretextual traffic stop and the deputies had no reasonable suspicion to detain or search him.” It noted that the deputies “testified that they saw cracks in the windshield of the vehicle in which defendant was a passenger, which gave the deputies ‘an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the vehicle or one of its occupants [was] violating . . . a law regulating equipment.’” Further, even if, as defendant suggested, their “subjective intent was to stop defendant for some other reason, because the stop of the vehicle was justified by reasonable suspicion of defective equipment, the temporary seizure of defendant was lawful.” Moreover, the trial court did not err in finding the seizure of the firearm and controlled substances was proper. “At best, the deputies had probable cause on the basis of defendant’s actions, and at worst, the plain-view exception to the warrant requirement applied.” Where one deputy “was able to view the weapon in plain view, and another observed that defendant may have been attempting to conceal the same,” the court could not conclude that the trial court erred in determining the seizure was permissible. In addition, as to the controlled substances, the court noted “testimony that, after defendant was removed from the vehicle and the firearm was seized, the deputy saw what he believed to be drugs behind the handle of defendant’s door.” Finally, the deputies “were permitted to order defendant out of the vehicle to ensure their own safety, regardless of whether defendant’s conduct was indicative of criminal behavior.” Affirmed.


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