IN THE CASE OF COMMONWEALTH v. WILLIAMS, No. 2209 EDA 2014, (Pa. Super. October 06, 2015), THE COURT HELD THAT DRIVING WITH YOUR TRUNK LID BOUNCING UP AND DOWN GIVES THE POLICE A REASON TO STOP YOUR VEHICLE.
Officer Alvina McClain of the Philadelphia Police Department was on a tour of duty that included the area around 600 Stenton Avenue when she observed a vehicle traveling northbound on Stenton with its trunk open. Specifically, “the trunk was bouncing up and down.” Officer McClain believed she was in a high-crime area and she was not “sure whether or not a crime had occurred and the person didn’t get [a] chance to close the trunk or if he maybe hit the trunk-open button and didn’t realize it[.]” Officer McClain pulled the vehicle over and subsequently charged Williams with DUI and possession of marijuana. Williams was convicted.
Williams appealed, arguing that the police lacked the reasonable suspicion of a violation of the Motor Vehicle Code or other criminal activity, rendering the seizure unconstitutional. The Commonwealth countered that because the officer observed Williams’ trunk unsecured, this alone provided a sufficient basis for the traffic stop; therefore, Williams’ constitutional rights were not violated.
Whether police lacked reasonable suspicion of a violation of the Motor Vehicle Code or other criminal activity, rendering the stop and seizure unconstitutional?
The stop was lawful and Wiliams’ underlying Fourth Amendment challenge is devoid of merit.
Section 6308(b) of the Motor Vehicle Code requires that an officer have reasonable suspicion to support a traffic stop in order to gather information necessary to enforce the Motor Vehicle Code provision.
Officer McClain personally observed Williams’ vehicle driving down a street with its trunk “bouncing up and down.” The Court found that this alone was sufficient for Officer McClain to suspect that the trunk lid was not in working order pursuant to Sections 175.77 and 175.80, as the latch may not have been working properly, this being “an unsafe condition.” 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4107(b)(2).
The Court stressed that the Fourth Amendment does not require that an officer be correct or even certain in her suspicion to make the stop lawful.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a McMahon & Winters Law Firm attorney. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a McMahon & Winters Law Firm attorney.