In February 2010, two friends were driving to a McDonalds in a 2006 Tan Honda Civic at night when they were pulled over by a police patrol car. The two officers ordered the friends out of the car, frisked them both, searched the driver, and searched the interior of the car without the driver’s permission.
One of the officers told the driver that they stopped him because his car fit the description of a vehicle that was used by a suspect to flee the scene of an earlier shooting. This was also the officers’ testimony when they were interviewed at the CCRB. The CCRB investigator obtained the complaint report (UF-61) on the shooting and it contained no mention of a vehicle. The investigator also interviewed the woman who filed the report and who said she never knew whether the shooter fled in a car and never saw a car flee the scene after the shooting.
Courts have deemed that “police may stop a vehicle based upon a reasonable suspicion that the driver or occupants of the vehicle have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime.” Since the investigation found no connection between any shooting and the vehicle, the officers lacked sufficient cause to establish reasonable suspicion justifying the stop. Because the officers did not observe anything on the civilians to indicate the presence of a weapon, such as a bulge, they lacked cause to frisk and search them. There was also nothing to indicate a substantial likelihood that there was a weapon in the car or that an “actual and specific danger” to the police existed, and therefore the car search was also deemed improper. Accordingly, the complaint was substantiated.