Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Can't detain just because they have a dealer tag

Thanks to Tenth Circuit Blog for noting U.S. v. Pena-Montes, No. 08-2169 (10th Cir. Dec. 7, 2009), where federal public defender Stephen McCue won reversal and remand on Fourth Amendment grounds in a New Mexico federal illegal re-entry prosecution:
Although the officer initiated the stop based on the reasonable belief that the vehicle lacked a license plate, after he pulled it over, he observed that it did, in fact, display a “dealer tag” but continued the detention to question the vehicle’s occupants to determine whether the plate’s use was lawful. Because we conclude that the officer could not have reasonably suspected criminal activity after he saw a dealer plate but before he began questioning the vehicle’s occupants, we hold that the continued detention of Pena-Montes violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

As a result, the Tenth Circuit reverses and remands for a hearing on whether indentity must be suppressed (deemed a separate issue).

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