Police Search and Seizure Violated 4th Amendment




Case: People v. Collins, Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )


Issues:

Search & seizure; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Whether the officers had reasonable suspicion to stop defendant’s vehicle; United States v Cortez; The totality of the circumstances; People v Hyde; Subjective intent; Whren v United States

Summary:

The court held that the trial court did not err by finding that the officers in this case lacked reasonable suspicion to stop defendant’s vehicle and thus, “the seizure and subsequent search of the vehicle contravened the Fourth Amendment, requiring suppression of the evidence and dismissal of the case.” He was charged with CCW after an inventory search of his vehicle revealed a loaded firearm. He challenged the search, contending the police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him. At the hearing, the officer admitted defendant had not committed any traffic offense and that the sole basis for the stop was that the, according to the LEIN system, the car had no insurance. The trial court disbelieved the officers had run defendant’s license plate number through the system, and found the stop was without reasonable suspicion and thus, pretextual. On appeal, the court found the trial court’s ruling was not improper. In the trial court’s view, “the stop was ‘pretextual’ because ‘it was clearly a stop so that there could be a search of the vehicle.’” The court interpreted the trial court’s remarks as “an expression of disbelief that the officers had run [defendant’s] license plate number through the system, and a conclusion that the officers stopped his car for other reasons—none of which amounted to reasonable suspicion that [he] had committed or was about to commit an offense.” The trial court determined that “the objective facts—the license plate numbers written down at the scene on the report and the ticket—simply did not support that the officers had run [defendant’s] plate number through the system. We have no grounds to question that ruling, especially since only two out of the seven characters of [his] license plate were the same as those recorded by the officers.” Absent evidence that they checked defendant’s license plate number “rather than a ‘random’ one, the prosecution cannot establish that the officers had a reasonable suspicion that” he was driving without insurance. “This was not a typo or a mistake in perception,” the trial court concluded. Rather, the trial court “found that there was no true or accurate factual foundation for the stop. Given the plate numbers recorded in the officers’ records and their marked variance from” defendant’s plate number, that finding was not erroneous. Affirmed.

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