Traffic Stop, Objectively reasonable mistake

Feb 11, 2023

The trial court erred by denying motion to suppress evidence discovered during a traffic stop based on determination that, although stop was invalid, officer’s mistaken belief that defendant had changed lanes from a left-turn lane to the thru lane in the intersection itself was objectively reasonable under the specific circumstances presented. However, the Record was unequivocally established that defendant was in the thru lane and did nothing wrong as he drove through the intersection. Appellate Court found that an objectively reasonable officer should know and be aware of the traffic lane in which the officer’s vehicle is traveling, particularly in the absence of factors demonstrating a basis for error such as poor visibility, a lack of roadway or lane markings, or confusing signage or signaling. The construction at the intersection was in no way a basis for confusion as to which lanes turned left and which lanes went through the intersection. Because the officer’s mistake of fact was not objectively reasonable, the traffic stop was improper from the outset, making it unnecessary to address issues related to what occurred thereafter.

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