Taking your Driver’s License, even for a moment, may be Unconstitutional

  At 11:30 p.m. on 30 April 2012, Lilesville Police Chief Bobby Gallimore was on patrol. He noticed a parked car in a gravel area near Highway 74, and stopped to see if the driver needed assistance. Before approaching the car, Chief Gallimore ran the vehicle’s license plate through his computer and was advised that the car was owned by Keith Leak (defendant). Chief Gallimore spoke with defendant, who told him that he did not need assistance, and had pulled off the road to return a text message. Chief Gallimore then asked to see defendant’s driver’s license, and determined that the name on the license – Keith Leak – matched the information he had obtained concerning the car’s license plate. After examining defendant’s driver’s license, Chief Gallimore took it to his patrol vehicle to investigate the status of defendant’s driver’s license. It was undisputed that Chief Gallimore had no suspicion that defendant was involved in criminal activity. Defendant remained in his car while Chief Gallimore ran a check on his license and confirmed that his license was valid. However, the computer search revealed that there was an outstanding 2007 warrant for defendant’s arrest. Chief Gallimore asked defendant to step out of his car, at which point, defendant informed Chief Gallimore that he “had a .22 pistol in his pocket.” Defendant was arrested for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; the record does not indicate whether defendant was ever prosecuted for the offense alleged in the 2007 arrest warrant State v. Leak (whole case.) TLDR: Court of Appeals (with a dissent) held that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when an officer, who had approached the defendant’s legally parked car without reasonable suspicion, took the defendant’s driver’s license to his patrol vehicle. This does not mean checkpoints are now illegal. Checkpoints are still legal, even though they are by definition, stops absent reasonable suspicion, because they are specifically authorized by statute, as long as they follow the applicable law.

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