Police Encounters with Suspects and Evidence
Officer Smith is on routine night time patrol when he notices the vehicle in front of him appears to have a broken taillight which appears to be covered with colored tape. He directs the driver to pull the car to the side of the road. The car is an older model gold Pontiac and as Officer Smith walks to the driver-side of the vehicle, he remembers that a car fitting this general description was the suspected car in a recent road side killing of a fellow police officer. Wanting to make sure that he is safe, he asks the female driver to step out of her vehicle for a brief pat-down for weapons. He pats her down and finding no weapons, Officer Smith asks the driver to have a seat back inside her vehicle. He then asks her for her driver’s license and registration. Instead of providing her driver’s license and registration, the driver speeds away resulting in a high speed chase. The chase ends when the fleeing car hits a telephone pole and crashes. Concerned that the car may ignite in flames from a leaking gas tank, Officer Smith removes the unconscious woman to a safe distance from the vehicle. He returns to the vehicle to locate her purse for identification.
As he enters the vehicle, he notices the glove compartment has popped open and that underneath some documents is a gun which he retrieves. He also retrieves the driver’s purse from the floor on the passenger side of the vehicle. He opens the purse to get the woman’s identification and finds what appears to be a baggie of marijuana. It is later determined that this vehicle was not the car involved in the shooting death of the fellow officer. It is also later determined that the taillight was not broken. Did Officer Smith have reasonable suspicion to make the initial stop of this vehicle? Was the “pat-down” of the driver legal?
Did exigent circumstances exist for Officer Smith to give chase to this vehicle? Was the gun in “plain...