The State Supreme Court also held that a computerized license reader could provide probably cause for a traffic stop.
At issue was whether a license plate reader can produce probable cause for a traffic stop, in this case involing a Norcross Police office on Aug. 18, 2010. Known as LPRs, the systems are cameras mounted on squad cars that capture images of passing license plates, instantly checking them against statewide databases of outstanding arrest warrants.
On the day in question, the plate for a white Chevrolet Impala returned an active warrant for Enrique Sanchez, now 26 years old, for failure to appear in court on traffic citations he’d received while driving the car. The officer stopped the car and radioed for backup.
Defense attorney Eric Crawford contended in briefs that there was no proper justification for his client being stopped in the first place.
The majority opinion added that the trial court made the right decision to deny Rodriguez’s motion to suppress the evidence of marijuana when the case goes to trial. Rodriguez herself conceded the officer had reason to stop her car and determine whether Sanchez was in it. Only four minutes into the stop, the officer discovered the outstanding warrant on Williams.
In a partial dissent, Justices Robert Benham and Carol Hunstein wrote, in part, “with this ruling, we have given police the authority to detain persons who are lawfully operating their vehicles for being associated with persons who have outstanding warrants, for failing to make eye contact and for using air freshener in their vehicles, none of which is criminal conduct.”
The officer, “could have easily completed his investigation of the Sanchez warrant with a simple search of his computer or a call to dispatch and without exiting his vehicle.”
Searching the Department of Corrections database would have found that Sanchez was in prison and not at-large, the dissent added. That’s when the encouter should have ended.