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Driving with the door open: reasonable suspicion?

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  • Driving with the door open: reasonable suspicion?

    The revival of the "who uses a bait car" thread reminded me that I wanted to pose this question here. This afternoon while watching an episode of Bait Car on TruTV, I noticed the thief was driving with the left front door unlatched. That suggests to me that (1) he was being cautious in case it was a bait car, and (2) such caution has "consciousness of guilt" written all over it.

    Checking Maine motor vehicle law, I didn't find anything saying a vehicle equipped with doors has to have the doors closed while the vehicle is in motion. I can see allowing the back hatch of a van or SUV to be open for lugging around a canoe, Christmas tree, or whatever, but otherwise I can't see a good reason for someone to be riding around with any side doors ajar except to facilitate escape if they're suddenly brought to an unplanned stop.

    Absent a state law requiring doors to be closed while a vehicle is in motion, if you saw a vehicle being driven with the door or doors next to any occupants being held slightly open, would you consider it "RAS" for a stop? Maybe it's just an oversight, but maybe it's an "ambiguity in conduct," as mentioned in Illinois v. Wardlow. "Thus, the determination of reasonable suspicion must be based on commonsense judgments and inferences about human behavior."

    Whaddya think?

    BTW, the two thieves in Atlanta snuck away from the air unit when they drove onto some heavily tree-lined streets, but the Auto Theft Task Force did catch up with the guy in the "follow car," and a little while later arrested the one who took the Jeep Cherokee bait car. One of them had about thirty priors, including auto theft. I hope ATTF also eventually busted the chop shop where the two mopes were going to bring the Jeep and have the rims transferred to another vehicle.
    --
    Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?"

  • #2
    I don't hafta worry about that cuz Arizona has a specific state statute about driving with doors open. I actually stopped a guy for that this last summer when he was driving down the interstate at speed limit with the door open. I cited the guy and arrested him for the warrants and DOSL. Even the Hwy patol troopers called me a d!ck.

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    • #3
      Geez, who'da thunk anyone doing something like that would have warrants on them, and be DOSL?
      But maybe somebody spilled something nasty in the car, and he was just airing it out.
      --
      Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?"

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      • #4
        If I were doing that I would expect to be pulled over. I think it is very suspicious, to the point that just about anyone who saw them would ask, "Why the hell are you driving with the door open?"

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        • #5
          An act can easily be perfectly legal but still be evidence towards state of mind....i.e. drinking from a bottle in a paper bag.
          This Space For Rent

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          • #6
            OP, try using opening door into traffic, as opposed to having doors closed while driving. Takes a bit more articulation perhaps, but it'd likely work. Here's what SC has:

            SECTION 56-5-3822. Opening vehicle doors.

            No person shall open any door of a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
            SCFC Dispatch Manager

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mookster View Post
              I don't hafta worry about that cuz Arizona has a specific state statute about driving with doors open. I actually stopped a guy for that this last summer when he was driving down the interstate at speed limit with the door open. I cited the guy and arrested him for the warrants and DOSL. Even the Hwy patol troopers called me a d!ck.
              Same with PA.

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              • #8
                California has something on the books as well.


                Originally posted by California DMV Website
                V C Section 22517 Opening and Closing Doors
                Opening and Closing Doors

                22517. No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

                Amended Ch. 162, Stats. 1963. Effective September 20, 1963.
                http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc22517.htm
                sigpic

                Originally posted by mitojo
                I was once thanked by two citizens in one day. Weird.

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                • #9
                  Florida:
                  316.2005 Opening and closing vehicle doors.—No person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.
                  316.1925 Careless driving.—
                  (1) Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section.
                  (2) Any person who violates this section shall be cited for a moving violation, punishable as provided in chapter 318.
                  History.—s. 1, ch. 71-135; ss. 1, 6, ch. 76-31; s. 24, ch. 96-350.
                  Note.—Former s. 316.030.

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                  • #10
                    Articulation could also include something for drivers safety. There's less of a chance of them falling out of the vehicle when the door's shut then when it's open. If/when a criminal case is developed and it goes to jury trial, you're the hero because you didn't want Johnny Dopester to fall into traffic and get sqooshed or ejected in a roll-over.

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                    • #11
                      Two words: community caretaking ( well, okay three words since it's really care taking)

                      You could probably use it to get around a statute.


                      "Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it". George Constanza.

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                      • #12
                        I like the way you guys think. Before I started the thread, I searched the Maine motor vehicle statutes for "door," and one section that came up was about parking, which I think includes not opening a door into traffic. (Something shown in a recent Prudential Insurance commercial as possibly ending very badly.)

                        I guess if you turned around to follow a vehicle because of a door or doors being ajar, and it suddenly braked and emptied of any/all occupants, that would add to the suspicion. "Headlong flight is the consummate act of evasion." That's what SCOTUS called it, but I've usually heard it referred to as "***es and elbows" elsewhere.

                        The view from the cameras inside the bait cars show the thieves holding the door open just enough that it can't latch and lock them in, but also keeping it from swinging wide open and causing other problems. (Like drawing unwanted LE attention.) That's got to be even more awkward for driving than holding a phone, drinking cup, etc. in one hand.

                        I just remembered the World's Dumbest video with the father/son or uncle/nephew duo in the bait car, when they got caught: "Oh no, please. I'm a, I'm a kid." Yeah, right. We've already got the recording of you saying "Let's go hide this b**** on the back roads."
                        --
                        Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?"

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                        • #13

                          A big fad here in VA (during summer months, of course) involves removing the doors altogether. You see this all the time with those who own/drive a Jeep Wrangler. I suppose there is nothing illegal about it - so long as proper safety restraints (seat belts) are worn while the vehicle is in motion on a public highway.

                          The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                          The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                          ------------------------------------------------

                          "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

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                          • #14
                            Yea that's a thing down here too. Heck, UPS does it even, they simply slide the doors back and leave them open in the summer. We don't specifically have a law that says vehicles have to have doors on them, they just can't open them in an unsafe manner or such as I previously posted.

                            I can only imagine the number of traffic stops that I'd get on a UPS truck in a shift if closed doors were required per se. No thanks!
                            SCFC Dispatch Manager

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                            • #15
                              The difference between those Jeep Wranglers and the UPS trucks is there's nothing to hang out into traffic and catch on an object or vehicle. Plus, if one is driving down the road hanging onto the door with one hand and the other hand is on the wheel, it's dividing attention from the roadway since the driver is trying to control a door at vehicle speed and keep the vehicle under control.

                              Depending on the drivers ability/inability to drive straight, distracted driving could be an issue as well.

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