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. Read more "Taking your Driver’s License, even for a moment, may be Unconstitutional"
Supreme Court holds that reasonable mistake of law is excusable. On the morning of April 29, 2009, Sergeant Matt Darisse of the Surry County Sheriff ’s Department sat in his patrol car near Dobson, North Carolina, observing northbound traffic on Interstate 77. Shortly before 8 a.m., a Ford Escort passed by. Darisse thought the driver looked “very stiff and nervous,” so he pulled onto the interstate and began following the Escort. A few miles down the road, the Escort braked as it approached a slower vehicle, but only the left brake light came on. Noting the faulty right brake light, Darisse activated his vehicle’s lights and pulled the Escort over. As a result of the vehicle stop, which lead to a consent search, the driver and passenger were both charged with attempted trafficking of cocaine. They challenged the stop, but plead guilty to drug charges. Full opinion of Supreme Court here. Bottom line: Even if police pull you for the wrong reason like speeding 35 in 25 and the speed limit is actually 45, the stop is probably still legal, if the judge finds the mistake is reasonable. Unless it is a clear violation of your 4th amendment right to privacy. "An officer’s mistaken view that the conduct at issue did not give rise to such a violation—no matter how reasonable—could not change that ultimate conclusion." Read more "Ignorance of the Law is no excuse, unless you are a police officer."
Additional troopers on the road for Thanksgiving Drivers can use a few simple safety tips while traveling this holiday season:
- Do not tailgate
- Use turn signals
- Maintain appropriate speed
- Plan ahead/use your mirrors
- Do not text while driving
- Wear your seatbelt