Judge Ted Stewart – Motion to Suppress denied

At approximately 3:00 a.m. on the morning of June 16, 2006, a Taylorsville police officer observed a vehicle traveling without a front or rear license plate.  Pursuant to the lack of license plates, the officer conducted a traffic stop.  As he neared the vehicle on foot, the officer realized there was a temporary tag on the back window.  However, the temporary tag was not readable as the tint on the back window was so dark, even with the officer’s vehicle headlights shining on the back window.

The officer requested the driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.  The driver was unable to produce any of these.  The driver did give the officer his name, date of birth, but claimed he didn’t know his own social security number.  The officer became suspicious, and the driver ultimately admitted that he gave false information regarding his identity.

Pursuant to the false information, the officer arrested the driver and conducted a search of the vehicle.  Defendant requested that the evidence found in the search of the vehicle be suppressed.

Defendant claimed that when the officer realized there was a temporary tag on the back window, the officer should have let the driver go on his way, without even asking for the driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.  In support of this position, Defendant cites McSwain v. United States and Edgerton v. United States.  29 F.3d 558, 60-61 (10th Cir. 1994); 438 F.3d 1043, 1051 (10th Cir. 2006).

As stated by Judge Stewart, “in the present case, the Court agrees that McSwain and Edgerton are distinguishable. As noted above, the Court finds the Detective’s testimony credible that in the light provided by his headlights, he could not read the temporary tag and that he could not see the presence of an individual in the back seat due to the dark tint on the windows. Because the Court has found that the tag was not legible to the Detective as he walked up to the vehicle, the Court finds that he ‘properly detained [Defendant] because he  continued to have an objectively reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation was occurring,’ namely, that the vehicle did not have a valid registration. Accordingly, the extended detention to request and check the driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration did not violate the Fourth Amendment.  Once the driver was unable to produce any of this documentation and the Detective was unable to verify any of the information that he did provide, the Detective had probable cause to suspect that he had provided false information and to arrest him. Accordingly, the Court finds and concludes that there was no Fourth Amendment violation.”

Motion to Suppress denied.

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