Since 2007, Michigan law held that when a police officer received consent from the driver to search the passenger compartment of a vehicle, that search permitted the officer to search the passenger’s belongings as well.
For example, let’s say that a passenger had their own backpack or briefcase in a car. Police often request to search a car with they suspect something is up. When they do, they usually do not have the right to search.
Question of Consent for Search and Seizure
Police would request consent of the driver since they are typically the owner of the car. If the driver consented, police possessed the right to search the whole car, including any passenger belongings. Michigan Courts reasoned that passengers did not have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in the passenger compartment of a vehicle that wasn’t their own.
But the law in Michigan regarding a passenger’s privacy rights finally changed to a much more reasonable and practical stance: A passenger holds a right to privacy of their own items, despite being located in a another vehicle.
People vs. Mead
It sounds very reasonable and yet, that principle was not officially Michigan law until April 10, 2019. This is when the Michigan Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of People v. Mead.
Mead was a passenger in which the driver consented to a search. Law enforcement searched Mead’s backpack against his objection. The Court determined the search unconstitutional and suppressed the drug evidence found inside. Furthermore, the amended search and seizure law makes perfect sense.
How Michigan Search and Seizure Law Changed
This ruling will change how law enforcement seeks to obtain consent. They must now get it from everyone in the car. However, everyone may not give it. They will have to make a judgment call about what they can search and what they cannot. An error could lead to the suppression of evidence illegally procured.
In my experience, the best results in drug cases, like this one, come from fighting law enforcement searches and seizures. Remember: a police search and seizure, without a search warrant, is illegal unless a search warrant exception applies (like consent). Now, Michigan police must gain consent from everyone, and not just the driver.
Attorney Morris has enjoyed a very successful and distinguished career as a trial lawyer providing high quality legal representation in the area of state and federal criminal defense for 20 years. He is known for his trial preparation by fellow attorneys, judges and clients alike. As a trial attorney, he is dedicated to attaining justice in every case, and is prepared to take on complex legal issues with success. Barton and his law firm pride themselves on obtaining results for their clients that other attorneys cannot.
Not only does Barton Morris have extensive experience, he also engages in continuing legal education to provide the highest quality legal services. Barton has received specialized scientific training through the American Chemical Society. He attended the prestigious Trial Lawyers College and serves on its Alumni Association Board of Directors. Barton Morris is also a board member of several distinguished legal associations including the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys, and the DUI Defense Lawyer’s Association Justice Foundation. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and has also graduated from their National Criminal Defense Trial College in Macon, Georgia.
Barton Morris was chosen as a Top Lawyer of Metro Detroit for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020 for DUI/DWI and criminal defense by DBusiness Magazine and Hour Magazine. Barton Morris was also chosen as a Super Lawyer in Criminal Defense for 2014-2020 and Barton Morris is the only Lawyer in Michigan designated by the American Chemical Society as a “Forensic Lawyer-Scientist”