Michigan v. Mead: Dramatic Changes in Passengers’ Rights in Michigan Police Searches
On April 22, 2019, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned a previous conviction against Michigan resident Larry Mead, a passenger in a vehicle whose backpack had been searched during a routine traffic stop for the driver’s expired license plate. This landmark ruling not only overturned Mead’s 2 to 10 year prison sentence for the drugs found inside his backpack, but will change the way all Michigan police officers are entitled to conduct searches in vehicles from this point forward.
The Court’s recent ruling determined that searching a passenger’s personal property without consent from the passenger violates that passenger’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. As Michigan’s highest court boldly stated, “…A person can get in a car without leaving his Fourth Amendment rights at the curb.”
Chief Justice Bridget McCormack specifically opined that as a passenger, defendant Mead had “a legitimate expectation of privacy in his backpack that society is willing to recognize as reasonable...” Such language is triggering of Fourth Amendment protections, which passengers in stopped vehicles had not previously been entitled to exercise for decades in Michigan based on previous rulings that passengers did not have standing, or the right, to question the legitimacy of searches on vehicles they themselves were not driving.
In the past, consent from the driver alone was enough to validate the searches of all property contained in the vehicle therein, but the Mead decision now expands protections for riders and their personal property. Police in Michigan will now be retrained and taught to abide by this recent change in Michigan law, but spokespeople for Michigan police have stated in the press that they do not foresee this as being a problem moving forward.
Know your rights! If you’re facing an arrest the resulted from a traffic stop or any other precarious situation, contact the Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz for your free consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys today!