Michigan Supreme Court rules police must have consent to search through car passengers’ belongings

The Michigan Supreme Court may have just made life much more difficult for police officers in their state.

The court just handed down a decision that will ban police officers from searching through the possessions of any car passenger unless they have that passenger’s explicit consent.

The court’s ruling is clearly going to restrict officers from being able to pursue suspicious behavior, which is how this case got to the high court in the first place.

Handcuffing Officers

The decision stems from a case that was filed back in 2014.

Officers had a vehicle stopped when they noticed a passenger begin to clutch his backpack.

The passenger, Larry Gerald Mead, was asked to exit the vehicle, which he did — leaving the backpack behind.

Officers asked the driver, Rachel Taylor, how she knew her passenger before asking for permission to search the vehicle, which still had Mead’s backpack in it.

Taylor, a rideshare driver, gave consent for the search, during which cops opened up Mead’s backpack. They found 10 grams of marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription pills, and a digital scale.

Mead was eventually tried, convicted, and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Unlawful Search?

Because the officer first observed the backpack in Mead’s possession, the search has been deemed unlawful by the state Supreme Court.

In the court’s decision, it stated: “A passenger’s personal property is not subsumed by the vehicle that carries it for Fourth Amendment purposes.”

The ruling further noted: “An objectively reasonable police officer would not have believed that Taylor had actual or apparent authority over the defendant’s backpack.”

The court based its decision on Taylor telling the officer that she barely knew Mead. Because of this, they argued, Taylor’s consent should not have included the backpack being eligible for search.

This ruling is going to be a huge blow to prosecutors against Mead, as the search may now lead to a reversal in his case.

The backpack was core evidence, and that will now more than likely be thrown out, along with any evidence the police found in the bag.

That being the case, police now have nothing on Mead — and an alleged drug dealer gets to be set loose on the streets of Michigan. Just what that state needs, one more drug dealer.

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