Friday, March 03, 2006

But it's legal in Colorado!

Thanks to Gene Parrish who tipped me on a nice Fourth Amendment win by Kay Huff in the Tenth Circuit in U.S. v. Edgerton. Here is a summary of the decision:
The seminal issue in this case is whether the unobscured temporary Colorado registration tag, displayed consistent with Colorado law in the rear window of Defendant's vehicle but illegible from a distance due to nighttime conditions, constituted a violation of Kansas law, thereby justifying Defendant's continuing detention ­ a detention which led to Defendant's consent to search and discovery of the contraband. For reasons that follow, we think not, and hold Defendant's continuing detention exceeded the permissible scope of the stop contrary to the Fourth Amendment.
Nice win Kay!

1 comment:

Mark J. Dinkel said...

K.S.A. 8-133 requires that license plate information be "clearly legible". At the trial level, it becomes important to get photographs or videos to see how the plate is displayed. I had one of these last year where the car was stopped only for the reason the trooper could not see the expiration decal. Although the client pled to a level 10, we were prepared to go forward on the motion to suppress. Photographs showing the drugs found in the rear of the SUV also (perhaps inadvertently) captured the Missouri license plate with the 05 expiration decal clearly displayed in the center of the tag. Other favorable cases in this realm include State v. Aquirre, 494 S.E.2d 576 (1997)(no reasonable suspicion where temporary tag properly displayed); People v. Redinger, 906 P.2d 81 (1995)(detention for driver's license check unreasonable where officer learned temporary tag was properly displayed); State v. Diaz, 850 So.2d 435 (2003)(once officer determines validity of temporary tag further detention violates defendant's rights); United States v. McSwain, 29 F.3d 558 (1994)(detention for driver's license checks and travel itinerary inquiry was not "minimally intrusive" and exceeded the scope which was to read the expiration date on the temporary sticker); Foote v. Spiegel, 903 F.Supp. 1463 (1995)(detention after verifying validity of temporary tag was notobjectively reasonable). Does the officer's mere inability to read the smaller lettering/numbering provide reasonable suspicion to pull a vehicle over??? The cases appear more supportive when the plate itself is partially obscured by dirt etc. After all, it is the government itself that prints these things.