MONROE— The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that police have the right to stop uninsured vehicles and overturned a lower court’s decision to throw out evidence against passenger Patrick Mazzie.
Mazzie was a passenger in a friend’s uninsured vehicle when Monroe police stopped the car on June 22, 2017. Police used a law enforcement database known as the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) to determine that the car was not insured as the reason for pulling the car over. The LEIN database gets that information from the Michigan Secretary of State every two weeks.
Police ultimately charged Mazzie with cocaine possession with intent to deliver and maintaining a drug house, based on evidence found in the car and elsewhere.
But a trial court judge agreed to throw out the evidence partly because, on occasion, the LEIN information about a car’s insurance status is outdated.
But police officers in the case testified it’s correct about 90 percent of the time. The Court of Appeals said that gave them reasonable suspicion to pull the car over.
The Court of Appeals did not agree with the trial court that the LEIN insurance info was unreliable. The Court said that at most the insurance information in LIEN would be 16 days old. There is nothing to suggest, the Court said, that staleness of vehicle information for this amount of time should be a factor in whether the police may pull over a car. The Court looked to case law from other jurisdictions supporting officers pulling over vehicles based on even older information.
The Court held that a violation of not having insurance is an ongoing type of crime, rather than a one-time occurrence type of crime. This would lead an officer to have the minimal amount of justification for a stop based on reasonable suspicion.
As to the confidentiality of insurance information, the Court of Appeals ruled that a violation of that statute should not result in exclusion of evidence. This remedy would be correct if it were a Constitutional violation. The Court said this was not a Constitutional issue, but rather a statutory violation. The remedy for a statutory violation is not suppression, the Court said.
The Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.