Skip to comments.Court: Cops can't stop drivers based on the color of their cars [FL]
Posted on 07/10/2014 1:22:14 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows
"Probable cause" has long been one of those terms that made the jump from legal jargon to household term, especially with regards to drivers who get pulled over. The struggle over what that allows on American roads and what it doesn't took a new turn last week with a Florida ruling that threw out a conviction stemming from a police officer who found something wrong with the color of a car.
In 2010, a deputy in Florida's Escambia County saw one Kendrick Van Teamer drive by in a bright green Chevrolet. The deputy ran his plates, and found the registration matched a blue Chevrolet. There were no warrants out for Teamer, no reports of stolen vehicles and no pending crimes that involved either a blue or green Chevy. Teamer also wasn't violating any traffic laws.
But the deputy pulled Teamer over anyway, simply because of the mismatch of the car's color. Teamer said the car had been recently painted, which was true. It also contained small amounts of cocaine, marijuana and $1,100 in cash. Teamer was charged with drug trafficking and possession, convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.
Teamer appealed, and last week as noted by The Newspaper, the Florida Supreme Court ordered him freed on a 5-2 decision, upholding a lower appeals court ruling that the deputy was wrong to stop Teamer simply becuase the color of his car didn't match its registration. The court noted that in numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, justices have found police can't pull someone over for everday behavior that's not linked to a crime, saying Teamer's stop was not different from those triggered by the race of the driver:
(Excerpt) Read more at autos.yahoo.com ...
Amazing. He actually caught a drug trafficker and the judge lets him go.
Thanks media for announcing to all the drug traffickers how to get the drugs past the cops to the schools.
Amazing. He actually caught a drug trafficker (with that strategy)
So if the driver hadn’t been a drug dealer, would the search still be justified?
I didn’t say the search was justified. It’ a dumb reason to pull someone over.
That doesn’t make him not guilty of having those drugs.
And this isn't from the Onion?
Cars have race too??
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The search commenced because of the marijuana odor emanating from the car. That part was justified; it was the reason for the stop that wasn’t. Good hunch on the deputy’s part...this time; too bad a drug-dealer was able to go free, though.
Of course this means that virtually every time a criminal defendant wins a motion to suppress and is therefore acquitted, a guilty man escapes justice because, by definition, he was found with the goods.
The point is how do you want to balance the right to privacy against society's interest in obtaining the conviction of the guilty? Your right to make that balance by way of legislation enacted by your elected representatives was taken away by unelected justices. The idea of the Bill of Rights is to immunize certain unpopular rights from the will of the majority and that is properly done by unelected judges. But should that extend to the remedy for violation of that right?
On the bright side, it’s one less pretext that the cops can use to violate the Constitutional rights of the citizenry.
This is a case of two wrongs making a right.
I’m forced to agree with the Warren court. Cops and prosecutors are symbiotic organisms; under most circumstances, the latter have a strong interest in ignoring the transgressions of the former. Removing the incentive for the trangressions is the best way to reduce (although not eliminate) the transgressions.
How many cars have been stopped because of color that were not drug dealers? I am one.
The lesson learned by the cops on this one is that if the color of car doesn’t match registration, then stop him for another reason. That would not be hard. There are a myriad of minor reasons they could use such as failure to use signal when changing lanes, weaving, equipment problem, cracked windshield, and on and on.
( I agree!!)
All of you are insane if you want leo’s stopping and pulling over any driver for any reason just because they think the guy might have something illegal in his car. Next thing you know, they might be knocking down the door to your home because somebody told them you might have drugs there.........oh wait.
I would say that in this case the stop itself was justified.
It is illegal to drive with improper plates, and since there is no way to check VIN numbers while a car is going down the road, it was reasonable to assume the plate didn’t match the wrong colored vehicle.
Had the car’s body been changed to make it appear to an entirely different vehicle it would be the same thing, a reasonable stop to make sure the plate wasn’t stolen.
Most people would never notice if their plate was stolen and replaced with a different plate, most don’t even know their plate number without checking. I don’t know mine.
You wouldn’t want some committing crimes while driving with your license plates would you? That could lead to far more problems and hassle than being stopped to check a plate match.
IMO it was a perfectly reasonable legal stop.
Sorry I didn’t make myself clear. I am totally against these kinds of traffic stops and illegal searches and seizures. My point was that most cops know how to game the system so that they could search your car or home and it would stand up in court. Too much of that crap going on these days.
Which is, of course, in complete agreement with the Constitution.
Though it is certainly debatable whether the Federal War on Drugs itself is either wise or constitutional.
Running a plate without probable cause is unjustified in my opinion.
That may be, but it is legal. Cops can now do it instantly from inside their car on a computer without calling it in. If a cop is behind you at a traffic light you can be sure they ran your plate.
That is the only reason to even require license plates, so cops can check them, and they do that constantly.
That doesn’t make it right.And people like you that advocate that it’s okay to do so is why our freedoms are diminishing more and more every day. Running a plate is no different than a cop stopping a guy walking down the sidewalk minding his own business and demanding his ID just because he looks funny.
I drive a 2005 Chrysler 300C. The factory and my registration call it green. Everyone else would call it silver. If you get low and catch the light just right it does have a very, very light green tint.
If drugs were legal, it would end many stops and most searches and harassment of the public.
Just running a plate doesn’t effect a driver in any way, you never even know it happened unless they find something wrong.
You aren’t being stopped, searched, or detained in any way by a cop running your plate.
The plate was accurate, the color was not. He was stopped for the color, not the plate. The government’s interest in a vehicle’s registration is registrant, VIN, title and plate. The court’s decision reiterates that the color of a vehicle is not within the purview of the government. Listing the color in the registration is an aide to law enforcement, not a requirement.
Would you prefer to be arrested if the weight listed on your license was different from your actual weight? Or hair color?
The last time I was pulled, about ten years ago, was on suspicion of DUI. The cop saw me pull out of a bars parking lot where I had picked up a friend. The cop had his entire head in my car while sniffing. No alcohol. He seemed pissed that he couldnt write me up for DUI. He gave me a ticket for expired tags. It was bull but it doesnt do any good to argue with a cop.
I spent an entire day in court, I was last to be called. I showed the judge my registration and the case was dismissed. Nothing was said to the cop.
When a peeping Tom looks in your wife’s bathroom, you will never know it unless you catch him at it.
“Would you prefer to be arrested if the weight listed on your license was different from your actual weight? Or hair color?”
He wasn’t arrested for the color of his car, he wasn’t even stopped for the color.
He was stopped because the plate didn’t match the vehicle description.
That is your strawman, you knock it down.
He was stopped because the plate didnt match the vehicle description.
You don't have to search a vehicle to check the VIN number.
Not a straw man at all, if you found someone looking in your window for no reason, I hope that you would want to kick his ass for invading your privacy. If a cop has no reason to run your plate, then he should not invade your privacy and you should want to kick his ass as well. If not, then you can join the rest of the subjects that feel, “ Well, if you aren’t doing anything wrong you shouldn’t mind”!
“You don’t have to search a vehicle to check the VIN number.”
No, but you would have to stop it first if not for license plates.
You’re off on a tangent totally unrelated to this situation.
No, you are on a tangent of bootlicker philosophy.
Just to clarify for everyone...probable cause is NOT necessary for a traffic stop...o ly reasonable suspicion....which is a lower threshold. That being said...we are not supposed to be running tags for no reason...
You’re just being a jerk now because you can’t debate the issue.
“we are not supposed to be running tags for no reason...”
Now that may very well be true, but if that is the case there is really no reason for plates to be required at all.
You've never heard of a race car???
Ehh...they serve a purpose for sure. Ties the vehicle to someone...and to a specific vehicle and its vin number, thus showing whether the tag or the car is stolen. But all the traffic conducted over the system is subject to audit...so you need a legitimate reason to run a tag.
There be a lot more black men driving white Cadillacs than white men driving black Cadillacs..
I’m not a lawyer and have never played one on TV but....
Were the drug traces discovered not fruit of the poisoned tree?
“Ehh...they serve a purpose for sure. Ties the vehicle to someone...and to a specific vehicle and its vin number, thus showing whether the tag or the car is stolen.”
And if the plate is automatically run and comes back as not matching the vehicle? Which was the case in this instance.
Wouldn’t the stop then be justified? That was my entire point in this debate, the plate came back as not matching.
Good question. The answer is "yes" as a practical matter. What are you going to do, sue the cops over being stopped? No arrest, no trial, no conviction, etc.; then probably the case wouldn't see a trial court, let alone an appellate court.
The "therefore acquitted" doesn't follow every successful motion to suppress. That outcome depends on the contents of the motion to suppress, and what the appellate judge had for breakfast. Most successful motions to suppress do NOT result in acquittal at trial or reversal of a guilty verdict on appeal.