Does the color of your car match the description on your registration? If not, you may be worried that the police could pull you over. A recent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court, however, has established that this scenario is not sufficient to create reasonable suspicion.
In State v. Teamer, an officer witnessed Teamer driving a green Chevrolet. After running the license plate through the DHSMV database, as is customary for him while on patrol, the office discovered that the vehicle was registered as a blue Chevrolet. Based on this fact, the defendant was stopped and arrested.
The Florida Supreme Court stated “[I]nnocent behavior will frequently provide the basis” for reasonable suspicion. Sokolow, 490 U.S. at 10; see also Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 125, 120 S. Ct. 673, 145 L. Ed. 2d 570 (2000) (acknowledging this fact and recognizing that an officer can detain an individual to resolve an ambiguity regarding suspicious yet lawful or innocent conduct).
“[T]he relevant inquiry is not whether particular conduct is innocent or guilty, but the degree of suspicion that attaches to particular types of noncriminal acts.” Sokolow, 490 U.S. at 10 (internal quotation marks omitted).
In the case of the Chevrolet, the State conceded that “the failure to update a vehicle registration to reflect a new color is not in specific violation of a Florida law.”
Ultimately, the Court held that there is no suspicion based on the vehicle color alone.
What does this mean for you? This ruling means that you should always be aware that the police are running your plates, registration, and licenses when you are on the road. Keep your license up to date and register your vehicle every year. If you change the color of your car, let the DMV know. Regardless of the recent ruling, the police will certainly find the color discrepancy to be suspicious.
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