Traffic Stop Searches Where the Charges Were Dismissed
Georgia Court Rulings
In Payne v. State, defendant was stopped for following too close. The arresting officer came up with 12 reasons why he searched defendant's vehicle. These included nervousness, lack of eye contact at the appropriate time, and standing in "the handcuff position". The Georgia Court of Appeals judges viewed the video and determined that these 12 articulable suspicions were a crock. The court held that defendant was illegally detained, which amounted to an unlawful arrest thus making the coerced 'consensual' search unlawful. Evidence suppressed.
In State v. Hanson, the long haired, bearded musician was stopped for weaving within his lane (not a traffic violation). While taking six minutes to write a warning for a non-existent traffic violation, the officer asked some forty questions. After being told he was free to leave, the officer then asked for permission to search the vehicle. The Court of Appeals viewed the video tape and determined that the officer's testimony lacked credibility. They further ruled that in asking for consent to search, the officer went beyond the scope of the original investigation. Evidence suppressed.
In State v. Blair, a Trooper stopped a vehicle for speeding. The vehicle had a drive out tag and contained four occupants.
The Trooper questioned the driver and the front seat passenger as to ownership of the vehicle. The Trooper testified that he became suspicious when neither produced proof of ownership, they provided conflicting explanations concerning the purpose of their journey, all four appeared very nervous, and defendant, who was seated in the rear, clutched a black bag.
The Trooper asked if any weapons, drugs or large quantities of case were in the car. The driver said no. The Trooper then asked the purported owner (front seat passenger) for permission to search the car. He respectfully declined. The four were detained while a K-9 unit was summoned.
Defendant fled with his bag, was apprehended and found to be in possession of marijuana, baggies, and scales. The Court of Appeals held that the detention in this case was impermissible because the facts known to the officer did not provide reasonable suspicion of illegal drug activity. Evidence suppressed.
In Padron v. State, defendant was stopped for a minor traffic violation. After 6 minutes of horsing around, the deputy told defendant he was going to issue a warning ticket. After returning his license the officer began asking questions about contraband in the car. He asked defendant a total of 5 times for permission to search his vehicle. Cocaine was found in a suitcase in the trunk.
At the suppression hearing, the officer said defendant seemed very nervous, and that defendant and his passenger gave conflicting stories. The Court of Appeals said that the video tape showed no nervousness and no conflict in stories. Furthermore, the Court said that the investigation had no connection to the traffic stop and that no reasonable articulable suspicion existed for the investigation. Evidence suppressed.
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