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Name: People v. Saunders
Case #: S122744
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/29/2006
Summary

An officer may stop a vehicle to investigate potential Vehicle Code violations when the officer has no other available means of verifying the vehicle’s compliance with the law. Officers stopped a truck, in which defendant was a passenger, because it had expired registration tabs and no front license plate. When the officers determined the driver had a suspended license, they ordered both men out of the truck. Defendant appeared nervous and was wearing a bulky jacket. A pat search of the defendant for officer safety revealed a weapon. Defendant’s motion to suppress argued, inter alia, that the initial traffic stop was unlawful. The Supreme Court upheld the denial of the suppression motion, finding the traffic stop lawful. The Court found it unnecessary to decide whether an officer can stop a car that has both expired tags and a temporary operating permit because the missing front license plate was enough to justify to stop. Since the officer had no available means, short of a traffic stop, to investigate whether the temporary permit applied only to the expired tags or also to the missing plate, the stop was justified. The lawful traffic stop was sufficient to uphold the denial of defendant’s motion to suppress.