License plate not illuminated and blocking traffic sufficient for traffic stop


In 2015, Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy Sam Howard observed a car that did not have a light illuminating its license plate. The police car and Rodney Carter‘s car were in different lanes when they came to a stop at a red light. When the light turned green, Howard accelerated slowly in order to get a better look at the car’s license plate, but Carter slowed his car to a near stop, obstructing traffic behind him.

Because of this suspicious behavior, Howard followed Carter as he entered the exit ramp for Interstate 55 southbound and activated his blue lights and siren. Carter sped off reaching speeds of 88-124 MPH while weaving and driving on the shoulder of the road. Spike strips stopped the car and Carter got out agitated saying he was headed to the hospital for an asthma attack.

He was treated by EMT and then arrested. A gun was found in the same area as the traffic stop the following day. He was convicted of felony evasion but acquitted of felon in possession and sentenced to five years. On appeal, he argued police did not have probable cause to arrest him. MCOA affirmed.


In Goff, MSC said that the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. In Henry v. State, 486 So. 2d 1209 (Miss. 1986), MSC said to effect an arrest for a felony, either with or without a warrant, a police officer must have (1) reasonable cause to believe a felony has been committed; and, (2) reasonable cause to believe that the person proposed to be arrested is the one who committed it.

Howard testified that he witnessed Carter commit two traffic violations – (1) his license plate was not illuminated; and (2) he was obstructing traffic. Additionally, Howard saw Carter fail to stop when he activated his lights, exceed the posted speed limit during pursuit, and drive on the shoulder of the road. Therefore, we find Carter’s claim that Howard lacked probable cause to arrest him to be without merit.