People v. Andrew R. Bushey
Erie County Court order dated October 15, 2015, reversing City Court’s granting of motion to suppress and dismissing of the accusatory instrument. Pigott, J., granted leave January 25, 2016.
ISSUE PRESENTED: Search & Seizure: Whether County Court erred in determining that the plate check of defendant’s vehicle and ensuing stop were lawful.
Issue before the Court: Can a police officer run a license plate number through a government database to check for outstanding violations?
Held: Such a check, even without any suspicion of wrongdoing is proper and does not involve a search; any information obtained indicating violations provides probable cause to stop the driver.
CAL Observes: While the Court recognized the “possibilities of database error and police officer abuse” relating to license plate checks, such concerns did not “create a reasonable expectation of privacy where none existed.” The Court left open the door to future challenges where an officer goes “outside the proper bounds of a license plate search,” suggesting that if an officer’s actions could be deemed unreasonable or illegally motivated a defendant could challenge them on constitutional grounds.