Passengers in Vehicles Have 4th Amendment Rights!
In April, your Michigan Supreme Court ruled that passengers in a vehicle enjoy 4th Amendment protection regarding their personal property in a landmark case, People v. Mead. Mead is a very important case and overturned long-standing Michigan case law to the contrary, see People v. LaBelle.
In Mead, the case involved a police search of the passenger’s backpack. The police searched without consent or a search warrant. The Court held that under these circumstances the police violated the passenger’s 4th Amendment Rights. Specifically, the passenger had a reasonable expectation of privacy in their backpack, and if the police wanted to search the backpack they should have obtained a search warrant or demonstrated a valid exception to the search warrant requirement. In this case, there was no search warrant and no valid exception to the search warrant requirement. Therefore the court suppressed the evidence found in the backpack, which was methamphetamine.
This Michigan Supreme Court case will logically extend to items such as purses, bags, and other containers that clearly belong to the passenger of a vehicle. However, we need to keep in mind that every case is different and Courts will generally look at that totality of the circumstances in each case. That being said this remains a very important case for individual rights and we, as attorneys, must keep this case at the ready – so when the Government oversteps their authority the appropriate motions can be filed.
If you would like to read People v. Mead and its entirety you may click on this hyperlink.