Attorney Nye’s client (a 21 year old man, beard, ball cap, and old car) was charged with possession of marijuana. His client was pulled over by the Michigan State Police (a young trooper, 24 years old, 2 years out of the MSP academy), supposedly for improper lane usage. The trooper then obtained the driver’s documentation, returned to his patrol vehicle, and cleared the driver. The trooper exited his vehicle, returned to the driver, and ordered the driver from the car so he could give him a “warning” for the improper lane usage. The trooper then illegally searched the driver and demanded consent to search the vehicle, which the driver provided. The search allegedly yielded 6 grams of marijuana.

On motion by Attorney Nye, the court dismissed the charges. The court held that under the case of Rodriguez v U.S., the police cannot detain a citizen during a traffic stop longer than necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop (writing the ticket or giving a warning) — unless, there are new suspicious facts to further detain the driver (like the smell of alcohol, smell of marijuana, unusual behavior, visible weapons, etc.) The trooper testified that he had no facts, just a hunch based on body language. The trial judge ruled that under the Fourth Amendment the driver could not be further detained, ordered from the car, and searched on a “hunch” — consent or not.  The court ruled that ordering the driver from the vehicle for a “warning” and then search was an unreasonable detention under the Fourth Amendment and Rodriguez.  The trial court also noted that, given its recent experiences in other cases, the Michigan State Police seem to have an institutional practice of using procedures during traffic stops that lend themselves to violation of certain accepted standards under the Fourth Amendment.

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