Massachusetts Cop Forum banner

1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
25 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am looking for any information regarding our ability to run vehicle registrations. I am aware that there is case law stating that the police can run anyone, and everyone without having PC. Can anyone give me information as to if this is Federal/State Case law. When was the law enacted? etc. Any information would be helpful.
 

·
Subscribing Member
Joined
·
3,422 Posts
I'm guessing it's federal. Same rules apply on the west coast too. I came on the job in 1988 and I seem to remember it being kind of a big deal around 1989 that we could suddenly run any plate we wanted to 'cause it's not an invasion of privacy to run someone's license plate, especially while they are on a public road.

The same thing goes out here for tape recording people. We can tape record people without having to tell them when they are talking to us or when they are in a patrol car. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy while dealing with the police who are public officials. ( I believe you guys in Mass have different rules about that though. Too bad you can't get that rule changed!) We use tape recorders a lot out here. You'd be surprised what two suspects say in the back seat of a patrol car when they think the cops aren't listening!)
 

·
Subscribing Member
Joined
·
1,281 Posts
disturbed,
I know of no specific case law, just what I was told by superiors, that the registration plate is property of the RMV and any information listed on the registration is open season...same thing with licenses.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
456 Posts
mikemac64";p="61866 said:
The prevailing case is Commonwealth v. Starr. Running plates in Mass is perfectly legal as long as it is random, and you do not engage in a pattern (ie profiling).

The plates belong to the RMV, and the logic is that anyone can get the info. A civilian can fill out a form and go to the RMV and get registration info. It just takes a while where we who are cops can get it instantaniously.

As far as I know, there is no federal case law on this.
If all you remember is getting listings instantaneously, be very thankful! Some of us cops/former cops remember the days when it could take an hour (or longer) to get a listing! :evil: I recall checking out a car parked where it shouldn't be at ~2AM, requesting a listing and the listing came back some 45 minutes later just as I got back to the PD!

Many years ago, the RMV used to sell all our info to anyone that would pay for the lists (not sure if they still do this, but I certainly wouldn't trust them not to). One day I received an unsolicited offer for seat covers for my car, with detailed info on the model, year, color, etc. that could have only come from the RMV.
 

·
Subscribing Member
Joined
·
459 Posts
Pulled this off of Nexus, a quote from a Wisconson Case:

The Supreme Court has held that an individual does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in an automobile's vehicle identification number. See New York v. Class, 475 U.S. 106, 89 L. Ed. 2d 81, 106 S. Ct. 960 (1986). Other jurisdictions have extended this holding and determined that a law enforcement officer can randomly check license plate numbers without intruding on a defendant's privacy rights. See State v. Myrick, 282 N.J. Super. 285, 659 A.2d 976 (1995); see also United States v. Walraven, 892 F.2d 972 (10th Cir. 1989). In State v. Myrick, the New Jersey Superior Court held that a computerized license plate check does not constitute a "search" or "seizure" and does not therefore invoke constitutional protections. See Myrick, 282 N.J. Super. at 293, 659 A.2d at 979. We agree with the reasoning of these decisions and adopt the holding of Myrick. HN7We conclude that an individual has no privacy interest in his or her license plates, and that a random license plate check does not constitute a "search" or "seizure" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.

Here's a footnote from Starr:

Similarly, because records of the Registry of Motor Vehicles are open to public inspection, see Direct-Mail Serv., Inc. v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles, 296 Mass. 353, 355, 5 N.E.2d 545 (1937), a police-instigated search of registration data contained in those records does not implicate any privacy right. See also G. L. c. 90, §§ 30 & 30A; Commonwealth v. Wilkerson, 436 Mass. 137, 141-142, 763 N.E.2d 508 (2002). There is no suggestion in the record that Officer Glynn's decision to check the number plate was based on the defendant's apparent race or ethnicity or was anything but random. While random police stops of motor vehicles to check licenses and registrations violate the Fourth Amendment, see Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 59 L. Ed. 2d 660, 99 S. Ct. 1391 (1979), random computer checks of number plates do not.
 

·
MassCops Member
Joined
·
297 Posts
A helpful saying to those who bitch about you doing police work and running listings on everything that moves: If you want to remain anonymous, TAKE THE BUS :fu2:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
109 Posts
Comm. v. Muckle (August 23, 2004) (MV Inventory)
Bridgewater PD Officer Joe DeMoura was traveling in a marked cruiser on Route 18. As he approached the entrance to a Dunkin' Donuts, as was his routine, DeMoura began running plates on his MDT.
DeMoura ran a plate attached to a Dodge cargo van, light purple, that was headed into the Dunkin' Donuts lot a few vehicles in front of his cruiser. As DeMoura completed purchasing a cup of coffee at the drive- through window, he received a response to his computer inquiry indicating that the registered owner of the van, Paul Muckle, had a suspended license. DeMoura left Dunkin' Donuts and drove across the street to Winter Place Plaza, where he waited.
Shortly thereafter, the van, which DeMoura observed to contain 2 individuals, emerged from the Dunkin' Donuts lot and proceeded down Route 18. DeMoura followed and stopped the vehicle in the BDL. DeMoura approached the driver's side, asked the operator for his license, and inquired if he was the registered owner. The defendant, who was driving, handed DeMoura a license that identified him as Paul Muckle, and confirmed, verbally, that he was the vehicle's registered owner. DeMoura verified the suspension & arrested Muckle. The front seat passenger, Hugh Hussett, also had an outstanding default warrant, so DeMoura also arrested him. With the arrival of Officers Lemanski and Fucci, Muckle & Hussett were transported to Bridgewater PD.
In reliance on a written inventory policy, the police arranged to tow the defendant's vehicle from Rt. 18, a heavily traveled roadway, and then searched the van. Among the items on the floor of the cargo area was a crumpled Dunkin' Donuts bag, located about 4-5 feet from the console behind the driver and passenger seats. Officer Fucci picked up the paper bag, which had no "volume or weight," and "opened it." Inside, he found a small clear plastic baggie containing a green leafy substance that was later shown to be marijuana. Fucci also found a nylon laundry bag secured by a drawstring. He opened the bag and discovered shoes, clothing and some empty glassine baggies. Fucci turned the baggies over to Officer DeMoura.
After finishing his search, Fucci completed a written "Record of Inventory and Tow" form that described the condition of the vehicle as having various dents and scratches, and described the inventoried personal items in the van as "various tools and clothes in rear compartment." None of the inventoried items was taken for safekeeping by the police.
The propriety of the inventory turns on whether the written inventory policy impermissibly leaves to the discretion of a police officer the decision whether to open closed but unlocked containers, such as the Dunkin' Donuts bag and the nylon laundry bag. The stop of the van, the arrests of its occupants, and the impoundment of the vehicle were constitutionally proper. Officer DeMoura's discovery that the license of the van's registered owner had been suspended did not involve a search in the constitutional sense. (operator of motor vehicle has no reasonable expectation of privacy in number plate required by law to be displayed conspicuously on vehicle). "While random police stops of motor vehicles to check licenses and registrations violate the 4th Amendment, random computer checks of number plates do not." Once Officer DeMoura learned that the registered owner's license to operate was under suspension, he had an objective basis for stopping the vehicle and requesting that its operator produce his license. "While it is certainly possible that someone other than a vehicle's registered owner may be operating the vehicle on any given occasion, the likelihood that the operator is the owner is strong enough to satisfy the reasonable suspicion standard."
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
68 Posts
Here's a decent site for some quick references to recent decisions:
http://www.mass.gov/mdaa/courts/index.html

In it I found:

Commonwealth v. Starr
55 Mass.App.Ct. 590 (2002)

An operator of a motor vehicle has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his/her number plate.

This case confirms the authority of police officers to run random checks of number plates; an issue not previously resolved in Massachusetts (at least not entirely on point).

The facts are as follows: the officer ran a check of the defendant's number plate with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and determined that the plate belonged to another motor vehicle. The RMV check was completely random; the car did not appear suspicious nor did the driver do anything unlawful. Based upon the RMV information alone, the officer stopped the defendant and subsequently arrested him after learning that the defendant was driving with a revoked license.

The defendant complains that the officer's use of the information on the license plate constituted a "search" and thus should have been supported by probable cause. In analyzing the defendant's argument, the Appeals Court decided that the defendant (and drivers in general) had no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to the number plate and "its examination, therefore, was not a search in the constitutional sense."
 
G

·
Jackryan,
That MDAA site is a great reference. Thanks.
A clerk the other day told me to add additional leaving scene w/ PI for each passenger hurt. Of course, I am not going to argue w/ her. Plus, I couldn't recall the case law.
 

·
Chapter 90 Enforcer
Joined
·
3,299 Posts
Remember... Plates, Registrations, licenses, inspection stickers are actually Registry Documents not personal effects.
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top