Criminal and traffic defense can be a difficult area to practice. It seems that every time a constitutional protection might favor a person, the government finds a way to circumvent or change the law. A recent criminal traffic case of driving on a suspended license reminded me of a stop that, the fact that it is a legal stop, absolutely blows my mind.
A sheriff’s deputy, while on routine patrol, observed a vehicle and performed a computer check on it’s license plate. The check revealed that the registered owner of the vehicle had a suspended license; therefore, the officer performed a traffic stop. The cop testified that he stopped the vehicle to determine if the car’s registered owner, who had a suspended license, was driving the car. In other words, the officer had no idea if the owner was driving before stopping the car. The officer further testified that he could not remember if the driver was the registered owner of the vehicle or if the driver matched the owner’s description.
Some people would think this is an illegal stop because the officer did not determine or seemingly even investigate whether the driver matched the description of the owner, not even gender prior to the stop or seizure. To me, it sounds, feels and smells wrong, unfair and unconstitutional that an officer can pull over a man driving a woman’s car because the female has a suspended license without even checking to verify that the gender matches the suspicion of a criminal offense.
Unbelievably, that is the law. The life lesson is to beware. If driving a car belonging to a person with a suspended driver’s license, then the driver is subject to being detained or stopped for no reason other than the owner’s license is suspended. This is true even if the driver is doing nothing wrong. I am amazed that the Courts think this can happen under the Fourth Amendment. I completely disagree, but the lawyers wearing black robes have written. Unfortunately, this is an example of case law that I do not like but have to live with as practicing criminal and traffic defense attorney. Traffic stops are often used to gain access to vehicles when law enforcement is really looking for drugs.
The criminal justice system can be frustrating for those of us who believe in silly little things like the constitution. It can be even more frustrating if you are an accused going it alone. Don’t go it alone. For a free consultation in any criminal or traffic matter, click, call or fill out the form.