Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Michigan gun case involving a police officer’s purported inventory search of the defendant’s vehicle. The case is a good example of what police officers can – and cannot – do during a valid Michigan traffic stop.
According to the court’s opinion, a police officer observed the defendant driving a car with a license plate light that was hanging in front of the license plate. The officer followed the defendant into a parking lot, and the defendant parked in a spot in the far corner of the lot. As the officer approached, the defendant explained that his license was suspended. The defendant provided a Department of Corrections identification card.
Upon the officer’s request, the defendant got out of the vehicle, at which point he was patted down. The officer found a pocket knife, but nothing else. The officer then placed the defendant in the rear of his police car to verify the status of his suspended license. The officer then realized that the defendant had two warrants out for his arrest. The officer repeatedly asked the defendant to consent to a search of the vehicle, and the defendant refused consent each time. The officer then approached the vehicle to speak with the passenger, who also had a suspended license.