Officer Smith did have reasonable suspicion to make the initial vehicle stop. The taillight appeared to have been broken and there was colored tape so there was probable cause to pull the driver over. Police Officers may pull a vehicle over for many reasons like traffic violations, equipment violations and even suspicious activity whenever they have a reasonable articulable suspicion that a public offense is occurring or has occurred. When approaching the driver Officer Smith recalled that a vehicle similar to the one he had stopped may have been used in a crime resulting in the death of a police officer.
This gave Officer Smith reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime there may have been some criminal activity involving the vehicle, the driver or both. The 1968 case was Terry v. Ohio (392 U. S. 1) deemed that an officer may pat down a person for weapons only if the officer has the additional reasonable suspicion that the pat down is necessary for safety reasons. Since a vehicle similar to the vehicle that Officer Smith had stopped is suspected of being involved in an officer’s death where a weapon was involved.
Officer Smith was justified in his actions of having the subject step out of the vehicle for a pat down search. Officer Smith did not locate a weapon during the pat down but he still had reasonable suspicion to believe that the vehicle or the driver may have been involved in the murder of a police officer and reasonable suspicion that there may be a weapon inside the vehicle but because he did not locate a weapon during the pat down search he did not have probable cause to search the vehicle so he proceeded with his traffic stop.
Officer Smith then asks the driver for identification and the registration to the vehicle and then the driver takes off engaging Officer Smith in a pursuit. There were exigent circumstances for Officer Smith giving pursuit. The driver fleeing reaffirmed his earlier reasonable suspicion that the driver or the vehicle may be somehow involved in the murder of a police officer and that they murder weapon may be in the vehicle or be in some violation of the law or criminal activity.
The driver was not identified and Officer Smith had probable cause to pursue a fleeing suspect. When the pursuit ended in a vehicle crash the driver was in essence seized and placed into police custody. Exigent circumstances existed for Officer Smith to remove the unconscious driver from the vehicle to a safe location due to the possibility of fire from a gas leak. There was also probable cause because of the exigent circumstance to search the vehicle and remove any evidence that could be damaged or destroyed if the vehicle had ignited.
Although even it there was no exigent circumstance. Officer Smith still would have probable cause to conduct a search of the vehicle under the “Caroll doctrine” The carol doctrine refers to a principle that permits a police officer to search an entire motor vehicle and any containers inside it if there is probable cause to believe the vehicle contains contraband or the fruits, instrumentalities or evidence of criminal activity The gun was partially in plain view and was legally obtained.
Officer Smith had reasonable suspicion and probable cause to conduct an immediate search of the immediate area under the driver’s control which would have included the glove box. Under incident to lawful arrest guidelines and the exigent circumstance of the possible threat of fire gave Officer Smith probable cause to search and remove any evidence that could be destroyed. The marijuana baggie will be admissible as evidence because it was discovered while the Officer was conducting a legal search of the vehicle and the area under the driver’s control.
Even though it was later proven that the vehicle was not the vehicle involved in the death of a Police Officer there was probable cause to stop the vehicle for the initial vehicle stop.
Procedures in the Justice System, Eighth Edition, by Cliff Roberson, Harvey Wallace, and Gilbert B. Stuckey. Published by Prentice Hall 2007 Whren vs. United States, 517 U. S. 806, 813 (1996) http://definitions. uslegal. com/e/exigent-circumstances/ http://definitions. uslegal. com/c/carroll-doctrine/ http://www. lectlaw. com/legalquestions/lq0563. htm