Passenger lacks standing to object to stop of car

Facts

In 1998, Trooper Dennis Weaver of the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol was driving on Highway 6 in Batesville, Mississippi when he saw a green Camaro driving in front of him. Weaver stated that the Camaro appeared to have tinted windows which were darker than allowed by law. According to Weaver, upon passing the vehicle, he noticed a crack on the front windshield of the Camaro which in his opinion would cause it to fail a safety inspection.

Weaver communicated by radio with Sergeant Dennis Darby, also with the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol. After their communication, Darby followed the Camaro and turned his blue lights on, which caused the driver of the Camaro to pull over to the shoulder. The driver then exited and met Darby at the rear of the vehicle.

Weaver then approached the scene. Weaver testified that when he approached the vehicle, he saw the passenger, Frank McCollins, with his hands below the dashboard. Weaver opened the door and asked McCollins to place his hands on the dashboard.

Weaver noticed two plastic bags between the passenger seat and the door. Once Weaver discovered the plastic bags which contained rock-like substances, he told Darby to arrest the driver. After Darby placed the driver under arrest, Weaver placed McCollins under arrest.

Upon searching McCollins for any contraband or weapons, Sergeant Darby found a clear bag of yellow, rock-like substance in his right sock. McCollins was convicted of possession of cocaine and sentenced to three years. On appeal, he argued there was no probable cause for the vehicle stop. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

A. Standing

Although McCollins was neither the owner nor driver of the vehicle, he argues that the officers lacked probable cause to search the vehicle and the reasons given at trial for stopping the vehicle, over-tinted windows and searching McCollins for the possible existence of a weapon, were pre-textual in nature.

It is significant that McCollins did not contest whether the window tint was excessive or whether the windshield had a crack, which rendered it a safety hazard. It must therefore be concluded that the officer’s testimony on this issue was accepted as factual. These things constituted valid reasons for stopping the vehicle in which McCollins was a passenger.

In any event, we said in Wallace that a person, such as McCollins, who is aggrieved by an illegal search and seizure only through the introduction of damaging evidence secured by a search of a third person’s premises or property has not had any of his Fourth Amendment rights infringed. As a passenger, McCollins had no reasonable¬†expectation of privacy which would give him standing to bring such a claim.

Also, there is no requirement that an officer issue a citation for the predicate traffic violation to have a valid stop or search.

B. Search incident to arrest

We said in Dees that when an officer makes a traffic stop, he may take reasonable precautions to ensure his safety. MSC said in Townsend that if in taking those reasonable precautions, the officer sees contraband, and makes an arrest, he may, incident to that arrest, conduct a search of the vehicle.

Having determined that an illegal substance was in plain view, the officers made an arrest, and were entitled to search the vehicle. See Conway v. State, 397 So. 2d 1095 (Miss. 1980).

 

https://courts.ms.gov/images/Opinions/Conv11058.pdf