Court Discusses Police Stop Involving Michigan’s Open-Carry Law

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a Michigan gun case. The opinion implicates several areas of criminal law, including the state’s open-carry law and constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was checking his oil at a gas station. As the defendant leaned over the hood of his car, officers passed by on routine patrol. As the officers glanced towards the defendant, they saw what they knew to be a handgun sticking out of the waistband of the defendant’s pants. The officers asked the defendant if he had a concealed pistol license. The defendant responded that he did not, at which point the police arrested him.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that under the Michigan open carry law, the fact that officers saw him carrying a gun in public was not probable cause to believe he had committed a criminal offense. The Michigan open carry law allows gun owners to carry a pistol on their person, provided it is for a lawful purpose and not concealed.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress, and the prosecution appealed. On appeal, the prosecution argued two points. First, prosecutors claimed that because only the handle of the gun was visible, the rest of the gun was concealed. Thus, according to the prosecution, when someone partially conceals a gun, they are no longer able to benefit from the protections of the open carry laws. Second, the prosecution argued that the defendant was concealing the weapon by sticking it in his waistband, and the officers were only able to see the gun because the defendant had leaned over the car.

The appellate court accepted both of the prosecution’s arguments, reversing the lower court’s decision. The court held that, while concealment was a necessary element of the offense of carrying a concealed weapon, partial concealment can meet this definition. The court explained, “a weapon is concealed when it is not discernible by the ordinary observation of persons coming in contact with the person carrying it.” The court also held that the gun would not have been visible had the defendant been standing up straight.

The court went out of its way to explain that the determination it was being asked to make was not whether there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant of the crime, only if the facts gave the officers probable cause to stop the defendant. As a result of the court’s opinion, the defendant’s motion was reversed and he will now need to stand trial to face the charges.

Have You Been Arrested for a Michigan Gun Crime?

While Michigan has an open carry law, police officers have been known to stop gun owners who are exhibiting a weapon, even without any evidence of wrongdoing. If you have been arrested for Michigan gun crime, contact the Michigan Defense Law. Our dedicated team of criminal defense attorneys aggressively defend our clients’ rights, regardless of the charges they face. We have extensive experience handling all types of gun cases, drug offenses, theft crimes, and allegations of domestic assault. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 248-451-2200 today.

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