In 2018, MHP along with Belmont P.D. and Tishomingo S.O. set up a safety checkpoint in Belmont, Mississippi. At one point, a vehicle driven by Brian Turner approached the checkpoint and then stopped and turned around without using a turn signal. Additionally, there was no tag light on the vehicle and the tag was expired.
The car was eventually stopped and Turner was irate. As Deputy Jason Moore drew his taser and ordered him out of the vehicle (intending to arrest him for disorderly conduct), Turner said “F this” and got back in his truck and drove off.
Turner drove towards a dead end and turned around colliding with a police vehicle. As Officer James Guthery approached the vehicle, he saw a rifle come up. Guthery yelled for him to put the gun down and fired at Turner when the rifle was pointed towards him. Moore also fired his gun because he believed that both his life and Guthery’s life was in danger.
Turner escaped and was later caught in Tennessee. He was convicted of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and failing to stop a motor vehicle pursuant to the signal of a law enforcement officer and sentenced to 60 years. On appeal, he argued that he acted in self defense and that the checkpoint was unconstitutional. MSC affirmed.
A. Self defense
Turner stated that the officers put a gun to his head and that police had been trying to kill him for years. Based on the statements of the officers and the evidence collected from the shell casing locations and trajectories, MSC found no self defense argument by Turner to be plausible. It should also be noted that an aggressor is not entitled to assert the defense of self defense.
Turner argued the checkpoint was unconstitutional and thus everything else was fruit of the poisonous tree. While the Fourth Amendment protects a person from unreasonable searches and seizures, Turner has not alleged that a Fourth Amendment seizure occurred at the roadblock. Indeed, he even admits no such seizure occurred (he turned away from the checkpoint). Thus, the MSC refused to review this on appeal.
Additionally, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Turner’s motion to suppress, since no unreasonable seizure occurred when Deputy Moore followed and ultimately stopped Turner. In Boches v. State, 506 So. 2d 254 (Miss. 1987), this court held that when a motorist evades a police roadblock, the police may stop them and check the validity of their license tag and inspection sticker.
Further, Deputy Moore had probable cause sufficient to satisfy the Fourth Amendment prior to initiating the stop. In Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), the United States Supreme Court stated that, generally, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred regardless of the officer’s subjective intent. In other words, when a police officer personally observes a driver commit what he reasonably believes is a traffic violation, he then has probable cause to stop the vehicle.
Deputy Moore, before following Turner for turning around before the roadblock, observed that Turner’s tag light was out and, upon further investigation, realized that Turner’s tag was expired. Therefore, in addition to witnessing Turner turning around before the roadblock, Deputy Moore personally observed Turner commit what he reasonably believed to be a traffic violation and, as a result, had probable cause to stop Turner’s vehicle.