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Is this a valid investigative traffic stop?

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  • Is this a valid investigative traffic stop?

    Some (all?) states have law enforcement tools including mine and which I have access to one. You ran run a license plate and it will show driver license information for the registered owner (including the status of their DL: valid, suspended, revoked, expired, etc.). Obviously, working midnights it's hard to tell who is driving a vehicle and you can't compare their DL photo to who you see through the window, but is just having the registered owner's information enough to stop a vehicle to investigate whether or not it is them at the wheel?I assumed not, but I was watching an episode of cops where a sheriff's deputy did just this, so it made me wonder...

  • #2
    In Washington State RCW 46.20.349 allows LEOs to "stop any motor vehicle identified by its vehicle license number as being registered to the person whose driver's license has been suspended or revoked."

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Ignite View Post
      Some (all?) states have law enforcement tools including mine and which I have access to one. You ran run a license plate and it will show driver license information for the registered owner (including the status of their DL: valid, suspended, revoked, expired, etc.). Obviously, working midnights it's hard to tell who is driving a vehicle and you can't compare their DL photo to who you see through the window, but is just having the registered owner's information enough to stop a vehicle to investigate whether or not it is them at the wheel?I assumed not, but I was watching an episode of cops where a sheriff's deputy did just this, so it made me wonder...
      I can't speak for the local/state agencies, but that is a big no-no in my agency (Border Patrol). Until you actually stop the vehicle, you have no clue who is actually driving it.
      Natural selection leaves the survivors stronger and better! Humans have escaped this winnowing for far too long!

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      • #4
        Interesting. So two posts, and both are opposite sides of the spectrum. I wonder how I'd go about researching this for Tennessee... I'm not seeing anything off hand in the TN code annotated. I guess I'll just need to do some asking around.
        Last edited by Ignite; 12-29-2014, 11:04 AM.

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        • #5
          I've gotten different answers from people within my department (NC), but one of our long time traffic guys told me that, when you can NOT see the driver at all, it is reasonable to assume that the registered owner of a vehicle is the driver, and thus you have RS to stop and identify said driver.

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          • #6
            This went to court in Indiana, and the case law came more in favor of law enforcement than anyone expected. The thought was they may say if you had reasonable suspicion the person driving was the registered owner you could stop and investigate, but the court went further. They said its reasonable to ASSUME the person driving is the registered owner until you should reasonable know it is not that person. The instant you should reasonably know, the stop is over.

            Example: Registered owner has a warrant. Listed as a white male, 30 y/o, 5'8". Car is tinted, its dark, you cannot see into the car at all except to see there is only a driver, no passengers.

            Scenario 1: You approach and the driver is a white male who appears to be about the right age and height. You can detain and verify his identity to see if he's the registered owner. If it turns out he's not that person, and there is no new issue (this guy is suspended, there's a dead body in the floorboard, whatever) to investigate you've got to cut him loose at that point.

            Scenario 2: You approach and the driver is a Black female. The stop is now instantly over. You cannot ask for ID, consent to search, etc. You must give the "you are not the droid we are looking for" and send them on their way if that was the only reason for the stop.
            I miss you, Dave.
            http://www.odmp.org/officer/20669-of...david-s.-moore

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            • #7
              Here is an Indianna Supreme Court decision that states the registered owner IS consdered the driver in such cirucmstances

              http://www.ai.org/judiciary/opinions...2180901fsj.pdf
              Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

              My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS


              (F*** Off Cuz Ur Stupid)

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              • #8
                Here getting a warrant hit on a plate is RS for a stop, however you usually don't run the plate without some sort of traffic infraction that justifies the stop anyway.

                So two posts, and both are opposite sides of the spectrum
                USBP and other federal agencies operate under many departmental policy restrictions that limit their actions more than statue and case law would. Generally, all such policy restrictions are stupid and counterproductive.

                Until you actually stop the vehicle, you have no clue who is actually driving it.
                So if you run a plate and come back with a felony warrant you're going to ignore that, because you don't KNOW the owner is driving, until you ID the driver... THEN you'll initiate high-risk stop procedures?

                ...or do you initiate high risk stop, get the driver and passengers out and cuffed, THEN figure out who they are?

                I know how we do it...
                "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

                "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

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                • #9
                  Ignite I believe you operate in the same area as I do. This isn't new and has been addressed somewhat by a DA or two. I was told that if you run the plate and pops owners has a warrant and you can see the driver matches the description you can stop. If you are stopping only because the owner has a suspended/revoked dl I would ensure it is the registered owner. Don't want to be that guy that creates case law that screws the rest of us.
                  Where'd you learn that, Cheech? Drug school?

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                  • #10
                    From the opinion of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in State v. Tozier, which was referenced in Armfield v. Indiana (the case mentioned in posts 6 and 7): "[C]ourts that have confronted the issue uniformly hold that an officer does not violate the Fourth Amendment by making a traffic stop when the officer randomly checks a license plate number of a vehicle on a public road, learns the owner's license has been suspended or revoked, and observes no other circumstances that demonstrate the driver is not the vehicle's owner. These courts each concluded that it is reasonable to suspect that the driver of a vehicle is its registered owner, absent indications to the contrary." [Citations/links omitted; emphasis added.]

                    As mentioned in previous posts, the courts have said that once the "other circumstances" ("indications to the contrary") have been observed (i.e., male registered owner but operator is a female, etc.), further investigation would be unreasonable.

                    In trying to find State v. Howard (Ohio Court of Appeals, 2001, also cited in Armfield), I ran across State v. Vance (Supreme Court of Iowa, 2010). In Howard, the court said "When an officer runs a check of a vehicle's license plate and learns that the owner's license is suspended, the officer may rationally infer that the owner of the vehicle is likely to be driving the vehicle, giving rise to a reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify the stop." In Vance, the court said "We find the rationale for the majority position as expressed in these cases (holding officers may stop a vehicle and investigate the license status of the driver based on information that the owner has a suspended license so long as the officer is unaware of any facts indicating the owner is not driving the vehicle) most persuasive." In the cases referred to by the Iowa court, only the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Div. held differently, requiring additional evidence of the owner's identity as the driver of the vehicle before reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop arises.
                    I believe both Howard and Vance resulted in the appellants' convictions on drug offenses as well as the motor vehicle charges.

                    In State v. Halvorson, a Montana case cited in the Armfield decision, there's a mention of State v. Gopher (1981) as "adopting the analysis of United States v. Cortez (1981)." In Cortez, the SCOTUS decision said in part "Thus, the test is not whether officers Gray and Evans had probable cause to conclude that the vehicle they stopped would contain 'Chevron' and a group of illegal aliens. Rather the question is whether, based upon the whole picture, they, as experienced Border Patrol agents, could reasonably surmise that the particular vehicle they stopped was engaged in criminal activity. On this record, they could so conclude."

                    I could be up all night reading this stuff, but . . . no.
                    Last edited by RR_Security; 12-30-2014, 01:25 AM.
                    --
                    Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?"

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                    • #11
                      Good stop, but our department encourages us to find a PC ticket. It's usually not too hard.

                      I'd hate to have a stop without a violation where the registered owner isn't in the car and I see a gun, drugs, etc. Still a good stop according to the supreme court, but I'll lose that in my county all day.

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                      • #12
                        The stop is legal in Ohio.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ignite View Post
                          Interesting. So two posts, and both are opposite sides of the spectrum. I wonder how I'd go about researching this for Tennessee... I'm not seeing anything off hand in the TN code annotated. I guess I'll just need to do some asking around.
                          Make a call to your prosecutor or whoever handles your criminal cases.
                          Getting shot hurts! Don't under estimate the power of live ammo. A .22LR can kill you! I personally feel that it's best to avoid being shot by any caliber. Your vest may stop the bullet, but you'll still get a nice bruise or other injury to remember the experience.

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                          • #14
                            States have differing opinions on the subject. I wouldn't make that stop in California without seeing the driver first and comparing the photograph in the database to the driver. I'm not aware of any federal decisions on the subject, however I can imagine what the Supreme Court would say about that being a violation of a persons rights

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                            • #15
                              The VT Supreme Court three years ago ruled this type of stop is good.


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