With regards to expired motor vehicle registration, I have always relied on visually recognizing a sticker as expired... it's easy articulation. I have heard through the grapevine that there have been several recent COA rulings regarding the use of MVD records as PC for a traffic stop - speficically, running a license plate (through dispatch directly or via MDT) and the return showing the plate to be expired, and stopping vehicles for expired registration based solely on the return (not the visual inspection of a sticker).
I cannot locate any such cases, but my expertise at searching for them is severely limited. Would someone please point me to case law either proving or disproving this assertion?
A while back the FWCOA affirmed a DWI where the vehicle's stop was initiated after the officer ran the DL on his computer and it showed that the registration had expired.
Thrower v. State, 2003 WL 22922988 (FW-2003).
Regardless of the existence of cases that are factually on point, looking at the big picture, reasonable suspicion exists if the officer has specific articulable facts that, when combined with rational inferences from those facts, would lead him to reasonably suspect that a particular person has engaged or is (or soon will be) engaging in criminal activity. If an officer articulates that he ran the vehicle's DL on the computer, learned that the registration associated with that DL was expired, he's articulated facts showing a possible violation of
Tex. Transp. Code Ann. �502.407 -- there shouldn't be a problem whether he sees the expired sticker or finds out about the registration status on his MDT. Hope that helps.
I did a quick check and couldn't find any reported cases where PC was or was not upheld on a computer check alone.
However I did find one unreported case that says it was fine and several that had just a computer check in the facts section but no question as to whether pc was an issue.
Unless you have acess to westlaw or lexis finding unreported cases is going to be hard but your local DA's office might be helpful.
Thrower v. State was directly on point to your question and is a Ft. Worth COA case decided on 12-11-03.
From a prosecutors point of view I really don't see the difference between seeing the expired tag (which I think is much more difficult now that they aren't color coded like they used to be) and running the plate and getting the message from dispatch.
If you email me I can send you a pdf of the Thrower case for your reading pleasure. email@example.com
You might also check out Turner v. State, No. 05-00-01246-CR, 2000 Tex. App. LEXIS 7746 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2000, no pet.). I quote the court: "Turner was stopped by police officers who, after seeing him leave a known drug-dealing location, ran his license plate number through their dispatcher and learned his registration was expired. In his second point, Turner contends he should be acquitted because the police [*2] did not have reasonable suspicion to run his license plate. We overrule this point because HN1a car license plate, exposed to public view, is not within an area where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. As such, the police did not need to have a reasonable suspicion. See Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351, 19 L. Ed. 2d 576, 88 S. Ct. 507 (1967); cf. Wood v. State, 632 S.W.2d 734, 741-42 (Tex. Crim. App. [Panel Op.] 1982) (adopting and applying the reasoning and holdings of Fifth Circuit decisions that car inspections performed by police officers, who were entitled to be on the property where the cars were located, which in no way damaged the cars, and were limited to determining the cars' correct identification numbers, were reasonable and did not violate appellant's right to be secure in his person, house, papers, or effects)."
Courts in other states have reached the same conclusion--even California courts.
Thank you for the replies - I believe that the Thrower and Turner cases will be more than adequate case law for the limited discussion we were having.
I appreciate this forum quite a bit - even though I do mostly lurk, seeing as how I don't have one of those nifty gold cards...
Found these cases a while back (before Thrower), still had them in my pile of PC/search law stuff.
LEACH 35 SW3d 232: Officer runs tag through dispatch and is advised tag expired. Stops car. Case argues consent given to search, but says "no dispute stop was valid".
PENNINGTON 54 SW3d 852: Officer runs tag - advised expired. Makes stop - appeal does not even raise validity of stop.
MARTIN 796 SW2d 810: Officer runs tag, has dispatch run name on tag and advised registered owner has warrants. Oficer makes stop. Motion to suppress granted and suppression upheld.
A good idea on these cases is to tell the officers to get dispatch to print the MVD return, get it from them, and file it with the case. It will show the tag #, the expiration date per DPS, and the date/time the tag was run.
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