By David Daggett
(Dedicated to the memory of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta)
The holiday season is traditionally the time that record companies put out greatest hits and box set compilations in order to stimulate sluggish yearlong album sales. Oftentimes, those collections contain “hits” using the most liberal sense of the word, as evidenced by the fact that Milli Vanilli, Twisted Sister, Hanson, Coolio, Kenny G and Vanilla Ice have each had Greatest Hits packages released by their record labels.
It is in that spirit that I thought I’d take this opportunity to cobble together my own box set of seminal traffic related cases from both the Maryland appellate courts and United States Supreme Court. The cases cited below encompass a wide range of topics – everything from the traffic stop to searches and seizures to courtroom testimony. A working knowledge of these cases will be helpful when addressing frivolous defense arguments.
Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979)
A traffic stop is a search and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments are implicated because stopping an automobile and detaining its occupants constitutes a ‘seizure’ within the meaning of those amendments even though the purpose of the stop is limited and the resulting detention quite brief. Traffic stops are seizures.
Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005)
A routine traffic stop is a relatively brief encounter and is more analogous to a Terry stop than a formal arrest. Quoting from Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113 (1998), quoting from Berkemer vs. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420 (1984).
U.S. v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1 (1989)
The officer must be able to articulate something more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch. The Fourth Amendment requires some minimal level of objective justification for making the stop. That level is considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence.
Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Articulable Suspicion (See February 2014 Blog)
U.S. v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266 (2002)
The process of making a reasonable suspicion determination allows officers to draw on their own experiences and specialized training to make inferences from and deductions about the cumulative information available to them that “might well elude an untrained person.” In other words, the officer’s training, knowledge and experience is relevant so don’t forget to highlight it during direct exam.
Florida v Royer, 460 U.S. 491 (1983)
If a reasonable suspicion stop lasts too long, it turns into an arrest and an arrest requires probable cause.
State v. Williams, 401 Md. 676 (2007)
Most courts that have determined the appropriate standard (Probable Cause or Reasonable Articulable Suspicion) that applies to a routine traffic stop, including a Whren Stop, have held that probable cause is not ordinarily required and that a traffic stop is justified under the Fourth Amendment if the officer had a reasonable articulable suspicion that a traffic law has been violated.
While the Court determined that while RAS is the minimum standard for an initial traffic stop (including a Whren stop), having probable cause is always a safer bet.
Smith v State, 214 Md. App. 195 (2013)
To be reasonable, a traffic stop must be supported by “reasonable articulable suspicion to believe that the car was being driven contrary to the laws governing the operation of motor vehicles.”
Smith v. State, 182 Md. App. 444 (2008) SAME STATE/DIFFERENT SMITH
“…the officer has probable cause to believe that the driver has committed a traffic violation, or the officer has reasonable articulable suspicion that criminal activity may be afoot, including reasonable articulable suspicion to believe the car is being driven contrary to the laws governing the operation of motor vehicles…”
In other words, clocking a vehicle at 40/25 or running a red light constitutes probable cause, but seeing a vehicle weaving within its lane, a slumped over driver, speeding up and slowing down, not proceeding at a green light may constitute RAS that a DUI is taking place.
Blasi v. State, 167 Md. 483 (2006)
…there seems to be some imprecision as to what will justify a traffic stop—whether the officer needs probable cause to believe that a traffic offense has been committed or only a Terry v. Ohio reasonable articulable suspicion that such is the case. Courts, including the Supreme Court and this Court, have mentioned both of those standards in the context of traffic stops. The prevailing view among courts that have resolved that issue, and the view that we shall adopt, is that the appropriate minimum standard is reasonable articulable suspicion.
Alabama v. White, 110 S. Ct. 2412 (1990)
The standard of reasonable suspicion–satisfaction of which is necessary to justify an investigatory stop of a person, consistent with the Federal Constitution’s Fourth Amendment–is less demanding than the probable cause standard for an arrest or for issuance of a search warrant under the Fourth Amendment, not only in the sense that reasonable suspicion can be established with information that is different in quantity or content than that required to establish probable cause, but also in the sense that reasonable suspicion can arise from information that is less reliable than that required to show probable cause; reasonable suspicion, like probable cause, is dependent upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability; the quantity and the quality of information are considered in the totality of the circumstances that must be taken into account when evaluating whether there is reasonable suspicion; thus, if an informant’s tip has a relatively low degree of reliability, more information will be required to establish the requisite quantum of suspicion than would be required if the tip were more reliable; a totality-of-the-circumstances approach applies in the reasonable suspicion context as well as in the probable cause context, the only difference being the level of suspicion that must be established.
McCormick v. State, 211 Md. App. 261 (2013).
Defendant’s arrest for DUI was supported by PC where he was stopped for going 88 mph in a 55 mph zone, the officer detected a strong odor of alcohol, noted defendant’s bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, as well as an alcohol restriction on defendant’s license, defendant admitted consuming two alcoholic drinks, and refused to submit to FST. After his arrest, he submitted to a breath test, which indicated a BAC of .11. The Court noted that even if no PC to arrest for DUI, there was more than sufficient evidence to arrest for driving in violation of alcohol restriction under TR § 16-113(j), an incarcerable traffic offense under TR § 27-101(c)(10). It made no difference in assessing probable cause whether the officer charged defendant with driving on a restricted license or with DWI.
McAvoy v. State, 314 Md. 509 (1987)
Motorist was not “in custody” at the time the officer directed him to perform field sobriety tests and thus, driver is not entitled to Miranda warnings before the administration of such tests. Motorist was not entitled to Miranda warnings prior to being given intoximeter test.
Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420 (1984) S. Ct. 3138 (1984)
Roadside questioning of motorist detained pursuant to routine traffic stop did not constitute “custodial interrogation” for purposes of Miranda rule, so that pre-arrest statements motorist made in answering such questioning were admissible against motorist.
Length of Stop
Ferris v. State, 355 Md. 356 (1999)
Police officer’s purpose in ordinary traffic stop is to enforce laws of the roadway, and ordinarily to investigate manner of driving with intent to issue citation or warning; once purpose of the stop has been fulfilled, the continued detention of the car and occupants amounts to a second detention, for purposes of Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Once the underlying basis for the initial traffic stop has concluded, a police officer encounter which implicates the Fourth Amendment is constitutionally permissible only if either: (1) the driver consents to continuing intrusion; or (2) officer has, at a minimum, a reasonable articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.
Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609, 575 U.S. ___ (2015) (See May 2015 Blog)
The majority noted that a routine traffic stop is more analogous to a Terry stop than to a formal arrest. Like a Terry stop, the tolerable duration of police inquiries in the traffic-stop context is determined by the seizure’s “mission” – that is, to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop and to attend to safety concerns. The Court determined that because addressing the infraction is the purpose of the stop, it may last no longer than is necessary to effectuate that purpose. Any detention beyond that must be justified by a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
Whren v. US, 116 S. Ct. 1769 (1996)
The temporary detention of a motorist upon probable cause to believe that he has violated the traffic laws does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable seizures, even if a reasonable officer would not have stopped the motorist absent some additional law enforcement objective. Detention of a motorist is reasonable where reasonable articulable suspicion exists that a traffic violation has occurred.
Charity v. State, 132 Md. App. 598 (2000)
Trooper assigned to narcotics interdiction task force sees three vehicles travelling in a caravan, following one another too closely. Trooper calls for back-up and stops the second and third vehicles. The back-up trooper releases the third car within two minutes with a warning for following too closely. The trooper with the second car notices a large amount of air fresheners (77) hanging from the rearview mirror. He writes a warning and asks to speak with the driver at the rear of the vehicle. Additional indicia of transporting drugs from interview with driver. Search reveals drugs in the trunk.
“Scope limitations” on what may be done pursuant to a permissible Whren stop or pursuant to any traffic stop, the Court must assess reasonableness of each detention on a case by case basis and not the running of the clock. Once the officer advised defendant that he had been stopped for a traffic infraction, and defendant acknowledged the infraction and apologized, and the officer had examined defendant’s driver’s license and registration, any further detention of defendant to engage in narcotics – related investigation was beyond the scope of a Whren stop and had to be supported by independent RAS.
Vehicle Search Incident to Arrest
Arizona v. Gant, 129 S. Ct. 1710 (2009) (See August 2014 Blog)
After respondent was arrested for driving with a suspended license, handcuffed, and locked in the back of a patrol car, police officers searched his car and discovered cocaine in the pocket of a jacket on the backseat. The Court determined that the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement did not justify the search because (1) police could not reasonably have believed that respondent could have accessed his car at the time of the search since the five officers outnumbered the three arrestees, all of whom had been handcuffed and secured in separate patrol cars before the officers searched respondent’s car, and (2) police could not reasonably have believed that evidence of the offense for which respondent was arrested might have been found in the car since he was arrested for driving with a suspended license, an offense for which police could not expect to find evidence in the passenger compartment of his car. Also, the doctrine of stare decisis did not require adherence to a broad reading of Belton; the safety and evidentiary interests that supported the search in Belton simply were not present in the instant case.
Hamel v. State, 179 Md. App. 1 (2008)
DUI arrest – The search of the locked glove compartment was permissible under the Fourth Amendment and Maryland Constitution as it came within the lawful search incident to arrest.
Pryor v. State, 122 Md. App. 671 (1998)
Although forcible stop of defendant’s vehicle was justified, subsequent 20-25 minute roadside detention of defendant while waiting for a drug sniffing dog was unreasonable and violated Fourth Amendment. Suspect cannot be detained at the scene of the stop longer than it takes, or reasonably should take, to issue a citation for the traffic violation.
Taylor v. State, 244 Md. App 476 (2015) (See August 2015 Blog)
Officers did not violate defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights when, after his arrest for DUI, an officer searched his vehicle for alcohol and instead found illegal drugs. As there was no evidence as to where or when defendant came under the influence, it was reasonable for the officers to conclude that defendant had been drinking in his vehicle and that they would find alcoholic beverages there, which would be evidence of the DUI charge.
Crossing Lane or Edge Lines
Rowe v. State, 363 Md. 424 (2001)
Driver’s momentary crossing of the edge line of roadway and later touching of that line did not amount to unsafe lane change or unsafe entry onto the roadway, conduct prohibited by statute and did not support traffic stop. The purpose of the statute defining the offense of “failing to drive in a single lane” is to promote safety on laned roadways, more than the integrity of lane markings.
***This case was probably presented improperly at the trial level. The officer should have testified that he pulled the driver over as reasonable articulable suspicion for DUI, not to perform a community caretaking function of checking on the welfare of the driver. Another reasonable reason for pulling over a driver who crosses the white edge line would be if the driver was approaching a construction work zone or if the officer could see pedestrians on the shoulder in the distance. Rowe does not stand for the proposition that a vehicle cannot ever be pulled over for crossing the white edge line. There can be other circumstances. ***
Dowdy v. State, 144 Md. App. 325 (2002)
This case is distinguishable from Rowe in that the defendant crossed over the lane markings from lanes one to two and the stop was based on reasonable articulable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot (impaired driving).
Edwards v. State, 143 Md. App. 155 (2002)
Crossing the center line of an undivided, two lane road by as much as a foot, on at least one occasion, provided a legally sufficient basis to justify a traffic stop, as it provided the officer with a reasonable suspicion that the statute requiring motorists to drive in a single lane was violated.
“Flight” Under Suspicious Circumstances
Illinois v. Wardlow, 120 S. Ct. 673 (2000)
The defendant’s flight from officers in area of heavy narcotics trafficking supported reasonable suspicion that defendant was involved in criminal activity and justified stop. The individual’s presence in area of expected criminal activity, standing alone, is not enough to support reasonable, particularized suspicion that the person is committing a crime, but officers are not required to ignore relevant characteristics of location in determining whether circumstances are sufficiently suspicious to warrant further investigation.
Field Sobriety Tests = Search
Blasi v. State, 167 Md. 483 (2006)
The administration of field sobriety tests by a police officer constitutes a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment but the constitutionally mandated prerequisite for conducting such tests is reasonable articulable suspicion, not probable cause that the driver is under the influence of alcohol.
Ordering Driver/Passenger Out of Vehicle
Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 98 S. Ct. 330 (1977)
Ordering the driver to exit the vehicle upon a traffic stop is permissible under the Fourth Amendment. Once the motor vehicle has been lawfully detained for a traffic violation, the officer may order the driver to exit the vehicle.
Brendlin v. California, 127 S. Ct. 2400 (2007)
Passenger in automobile stopped by police officer held to be seized within meaning of Fourth Amendment and thus allowed to challenge constitutionality of the stop. The relevant question is whether a reasonable person in defendant’s position after the car was stopped would have believed himself free to terminate the encounter between the police and himself.
Arizona v. Johnson, 129 S, Ct. 781 (2009)
If traffic stop is valid, police can order the driver and passengers out of the vehicle. Officer can pat down driver and/or passengers if the officer reasonably concludes that the driver and/or passenger might be armed and dangerous. Can only pat down those individuals whom the officer believes to be armed and dangerous.
Maryland v. Wilson, 117 S. Ct. 882 (1997)
Police officer making a traffic stop may order passengers to get out of the vehicle pending the completion of the stop.
Anonymous or Citizen’s Tip
Millwood v. State, 72 Md. App. 82 (1987)
Officer may develop reasonable suspicion warranting investigatory stop as a result of either direct personal observation of questionable activity or by confirmation of information received from an informant. If police get a “citizen complaint” of a drunk driver, they should confirm tip/make independent observations. See Navarette, below.
Alabama v. White, 110 S. Ct. 2412 (1990)
Informant’s tip may carry “sufficient indicia of reliability” to justify an investigative stop, even though it may be insufficient to support an arrest or search warrant.
For purposes of determining the validity of an investigatory stop of a person’s automobile under the Federal Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, based on an anonymous caller’s tip that the person is engaged in criminal activity, it is not unreasonable to conclude that (1) the independent corroboration by the police of significant aspects of the caller’s predictions about some facts imparts some degree of reliability to the other allegations made by the caller, including the claim that the person is engaged in criminal activity, (2) if the anonymous tip contains a range of details relating not just to easily obtained facts and conditions existing at the time of the tip, but also to future actions of third parties ordinarily not easily predicted, someone with access to such information is likely also to have access to reliable information about the person’s illegal activities, and (3) where significant aspects of the caller’s predictions are verified, the caller is honest and at least well enough informed to justify the stop.
Allen v. State, 85 Md. App. 657 (1991)
Anonymous informant’s reliability as justification for investigatory stop can be confirmed in two ways: information provided may contain self-verifying details which are demonstrated either by richness of information provided in description or by accuracy with which tip predicts suspect’s future behavior, and anonymous informant’s tip may contain sufficient indicia of reliability if police officer personally corroborates tip with his own observations.
Navarette v. California, 134 S. Ct. 1683 (2014) (See June 2014 Blog)
The Fourth Amendment permits brief investigatory stops – such as a traffic stop – when a law enforcement officer has a “particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity.” The reasonable suspicion necessary to justify such a stop “dependent upon both the content of information possessed and its degree of reliability.” The Court determined that the standard takes into account the “totality of the circumstances – the whole picture,” and although a mere “hunch” does not create reasonable suspicion, the level of suspicion the reasonable suspicion standard requires is considerably less than that for probable cause. These principles apply with full force to investigative stops based on information from anonymous tips.
Actual Physical Control
Gore v. State, 74 Md. App. 143 (1988)
“Drive” as used in TR § 21-902 means to drive, operate, move or be in actual physical control of the vehicle, including the exercise of control over, or the steering of a vehicle being towed by a motor vehicle.
Atkinson v. State, 331 Md. 199 (1993)
Person is in “actual physical control” of automobile, for purposes of statute governing offenses relating to driving while intoxicated, if person is presently exercising or is imminently likely to exercise restraining or directing influence over motor vehicle while intoxicated condition, When occupant is totally passive, occupant has not in any way attempted to actively control vehicle, and there is no reason to believe inebriated person is imminently going to control vehicle, criminal sanctions should not apply.
Factors: 1) whether or not vehicle’s engine is running or ignition is on; 2) where and in what position person is found in vehicle; 3) whether person is awake; 4) where ignition key is located; 5) whether headlights are on; 6) whether vehicle is located in roadway or is legally parked.
The primary focus of “actual physical control” is whether the person is merely using the vehicle as a stationary shelter or whether it is reasonable to assume that the person will, while under the influence, jeopardize the public by exercising some measure of control over the vehicle.
Dukes v. State, 178 Md. App. 38 (2008)
A defendant who is not in “actual physical control” of the vehicle at the time of apprehension will not necessarily escape arrest and prosecution for a drunk driving offense. A person may also be convicted under § 21-902 if it can be determined beyond a reasonable doubt that before being apprehended he or she has actually driven, operated, or moved the vehicle while under the influence. Thus, the construction of “actual physical control” as permitting motorists to “sleep it off” should not be misconstrued as encouraging motorists to try their luck on the roadways, knowing they can escape arrest by subsequently placing their vehicles “away from the road pavement, outside regular traffic lanes, and turning off the ignition so that the vehicle’s engine is not running.
Harding v. State, 223 Md. App. 289 (2015) (See June 2015 Blog)
The Court of Special Appeals differentiates between Atkinson and Dukes but seems to somewhat mis-interpret the language in Atkinson regarding where the vehicle was found. Head Note 16 in Atkinson addresses that issue and makes clear that “sleeping it off should not be misconstrued as encouraging motorists to try their luck on the roadways, knowing they can escape arrest by subsequently placing their vehicles away from the road pavement, outside regular traffic lanes and turning off the ignition.” The Court in Atkinson held that had there been evidence to establish that Atkinson had driven prior to his apprehension, he might have properly been convicted…because of what the factfinder had previously done, i.e. actually driven, operated or moved his vehicle while intoxicated.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
Schultz v. State, 106 Md. App. 145 (1995)
The Court would take judicial notice of reliability of HGN test, leaving only the competency of the tester and adequacy of test procedures open to challenge. Officer must be shown to be qualified to administer test, or that proper procedures had been followed.
State v. Blackwell, 408 Md. 677 (2008)
The officer’s testimony about defendant’s performance on the HGN test constituted expert testimony subject to the strictures of Md. R. 5-702. Much like a doctor’s description of symptoms, or a fingerprint examiner’s testimony about the similarities or differences between two prints examined–both subjects of expert evidence–the officer’s observations were based upon his specialized knowledge and experience and was expert testimony within Rule 5-702. The trial judge erred in admitting the testimony into evidence, over objection, without first making a preliminary legal determination that the officer was qualified to testify as an expert; further, the State did not establish the reliability of the test’s administration. The error may have influenced the guilty verdicts and was not harmless. The officer was the State’s sole witness, and his description of the HGN test was, by far, the most persuasive component of his testimony. The court could not say beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury’s knowledge of defendant’s performance on the HGN test, particularly when the State presented very little other evidence of alcohol impairment, in no way influenced the jury’s verdict.
District Court Discovery Rule – 4-262 Applies to HGN Witness
(d) Disclosure by the State’s Attorney.
(2) On request. On written request of the defense, the State’s Attorney shall provide to the defense:
(D) Reports or statements of experts. As to each State’s witness the State’s Attorney intends to call to testify as an expert witness other than at a preliminary hearing:(i) the expert’s name and address, the subject matter on which the expert is expected to testify, the substance of the expert’s findings and opinions, and a summary of the grounds for each opinion;.
(ii) the opportunity to inspect and copy all written reports or statements made in connection with the action by the expert, including the results of any physical or mental examination, scientific test, experiment, or comparison; and
(iii) the substance of any oral report and conclusion by the expert;.
State v. Werkheiser, 299. Md. 529 (1984)
The appropriate remedy for an officer’s failure to obtain chemical test would be to allow an inference that had the test been administered, the result thereof would have been favorable to the defendant, to be weighed by the trier of fact along with all other evidence presented, including officer’s reasons for not directing that test be administered.
Merger/Lenity/Lesser Included Offense
Beckwith v. State, 78 Md. App. 358 (1989)
Driving While Impaired (b) is a lesser included offense of Driving Under the Influence (a), but violations of § 21-902(c) and (d) are not lesser included offenses of (a) or (b).
Meanor v. State, 364 Md. 511 (2001)
Violation of TR § 21-902(a)(2) (DUI per se) is not a lesser included offense of § 21-902(a).
Washington v. State, 190 Md. App. 168 (2010)
Under the rule of lenity, the offenses of driving while under the influence of alcohol (a)(1) and driving under the influence of alcohol per se (a)(2) merge for sentencing purposes, when the offense arose from a single act of driving. It was error to run consecutive sentences.
Officer’s Opinion as to Sobriety
Warren v. State, 164 Md. App. 153 (2005)
Trial court properly allowed police officers to testify that defendant appeared to be under the influence. Officers were properly allowed to offer lay opinion testimony pursuant to Rules 5-7-1 and 5-702 because perceiving whether someone was intoxicated did not require specialized knowledge and because the condition of intoxication and its common accompaniments was a matter of general knowledge.
State v. Garlick, 313 Md. 209 (1988)
No extensive foundation needed to be laid for the hospital report to be administered under the business record exception (Rule 5-803(6)). The testimony of the emergency room physician showing that the emergency services report was made in the “regular course of business” and that the toxicological screen of the defendant’s blood was “pathologically germane to treatment” was sufficient to justify admission.*
* Don’t forget Rule 5-803(4), Statements for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment.
Briscoe v. State, 60 Md. App. 42 (1984)
Statutory inferences of intoxication contained in C & J § 10-307 are not available when the test was not performed under the rules set forth in C & J §§ 10-02 to 10-306 of this article.
Langway v. State, 94 Md. App. 407 (1993)
Statutory presumptions set forth in C & J § 10-307 are not available with regard to blood alcohol tests not taken and analyzed in conformity with the requirements of C & J §§ 10-302 to 10-306 of this article.
State v. Moon, 291 Md. 463 (1981)
The exclusionary provisions of Maryland Code § 10-309, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, are not applicable to evidence of the blood alcohol content of an accused where the blood was extracted for the purpose of treatment.
Time of Apprehension
Willis v. State, 302 Md. 363 (1985) (See July 2014 blog)
An accused is “apprehended” within the meaning of C & J § 10-303, when a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is or has been driving while under the influence and the police officer reasonably acts upon that information by stopping or detaining the person. “Apprehension” is the functional equivalent of “stop and detain.” NOTE: This case really must be read and understood. It does NOT stand for the proposition that once the officer makes his RAS stop that the defendant is not “free to leave” and that he is then apprehended. What it stands for is that once the officer has concluded his SFSTs and has determined that he is going to place the driver under arrest – that is when the 2 and 4 hour time limits begin.
Driving Suspended: Knowledge vs. Notice
McCallum v. State, 321 Md. 451 (1991)
“Knowledge,” not “notice” is the prevailing standard. Defendant would have the required mens rea if he was deliberately ignorant of his suspension. Deliberate ignorance should be established if defendant believed it was probable that his license was suspended and if he deliberately avoided contact with the MVA to evade notice. For example, the trier of fact could find that: 1) based on his failure to pay district court fines and failure to appear in court, defendant knew that it was probable that his license was suspended; 2) Defendant failed to fulfill his obligation
Little v State, 300 Md. 485 (1983)
For a roadblock to be permissible, it appears that the selection of motor vehicles to be stopped must not be arbitrary, safety must be assured, motorists’ inconvenience must be minimized, and assurance must be given that the procedure is being conducted pursuant to a plan devised by law enforcement supervisory personnel. While the court does not suggest that advance notice is a constitutional necessity, advance publication of the date of an intended roadblock, even without announcing its precise location, would have the virtue of reducing surprise, fear, and inconvenience.
Brown v. State, 78 Md. App. 513 (1988)
While not a sobriety checkpoint case per se, Brown nonetheless provides excellent guidance regarding checkpoint operations and an overview of Little v. State. It’s also a very fun read! As a general rule, the constitutionality of traffic checkpoints has been upheld where: (1) the discretion of the officers in the field is carefully circumscribed by clear objective regulations established by high level administrative officials; (2) approaching drivers are given adequate warning that there is a roadblock ahead; (3) the likelihood of apprehension, fear or surprise is reduced by a display of legitimate police authority at the roadblock; and (4) vehicles are stopped on a systematic, non-random basis that shows drivers they are not being singled out for arbitrary reason.
Michigan Dep’t. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990)
With regard to the Michigan sobriety checkpoint program, the initial stop of each motorist passing through a checkpoint and the associated preliminary questioning and observation by checkpoint officers were reasonable seizures which did not violate the Fourth Amendment, as the balance among the state’s interest in preventing drunk driving, the extent to which the checkpoint program could reasonably be said to advance that interest, and the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists, weighed in favor of that program, given that (1) the magnitude of the drunken driving problem and the states’ interest in eradicating it were indisputable; (2) the “objective” intrusion resulting from the checkpoint, measured by the duration of the seizure and the intensity of the investigation, was minimal; (3) the “subjective” intrusion resulting from the checkpoint program – which was to be evaluated in terms of the fear and surprise engendered in law-abiding motorists by the nature of the stop, not the natural fear of one who has been drinking over the prospect of being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint – was indistinguishable for constitutional purposes from that resulting from border checkpoints (upheld in U.S. v. Martinez – Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976)); and (4) the advancement of the state’s interest in preventing drunken driving was sufficiently shown be (a) the fact that, in the one checkpoint conducted under the program, appx. 1.5% of all the drivers stopped were arrested for drunk driving, and (b) expert testimony that experience in other states demonstrated that checkpoints resulted in the arrest of about 1% of all drivers stopped.
Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013) (See November 2013 Blog)
Possibly the opinion that has had the biggest impact on motor vehicle law in the past 50 years.
The natural metabolization of alcohol from the body is not, by itself, an exigent circumstance that allows officers to seize a blood specimen absent a warrant in all DUI cases. Exigency must be determined on a case by case basis and using a totality of the circumstances analysis.
Although Maryland law (TA §16-205.1) states that an officer may demand blood from a suspect in a traffic accident resulting in bodily injury or death (so long as the officer has a reasonable belief that the suspect is impaired), the Office of the Attorney General has opined that police make a good faith effort to obtain a search warrant prior to drawing blood in these type cases.
Event Data Recorders/Airbag Control Modules
Easter v. State, 223 Md. App. 65 (2015) (See June 2015 Blog)
Appears to be the first Maryland appellate decision addressing the admission of air bag control module data. The CoSA ruled that as long as the witness had extensive training in how to use the specialized equipment to retrieve the data; had been qualified as an expert in crash data retrieval; had testified that the method used to retrieve the data was accepted within the scientific community of crash reconstruction; that, in the expert’s opinion, the air bag control data is accurate; and that the testimony would assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue that the decision admit the testimony rests in the sound discretion of the trial court.
Tinted Windows (See September 2014 Blog)
State v. Williams, 401 Md. 676 (2007) & Turkes v. State, 199 Md. App. 96 (2011)
While traffic stops can be based on a suspected excessive window tint violation, these cases point out the fine line that exists between a stop that is upheld and one that is not. If basing a stop strictly on overly tinted windows, it is imperative for the officer to be able to adequately articulate why – through his training, knowledge, experience and observations – he believed the level of tint violated the law.
Window tint limits only apply to vehicles registered in Maryland. Generally, it is not a good idea to stop a vehicle based only upon a suspected window tint violation.
Mistake of Law
Heien v. North Carolina, 574 U.S. ___; 135 S. Ct. 530 (2014)
“Objectively reasonable” mistakes of law can provide the basis for a valid stop. Here, the officer believed that North Carolina state law required two working brake lights, but the statute was was interpreted to require only working “rear lamps”, which did not include brake lights.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL