Fourth Amendment Waiver Searches: Don’t Prolong a Detention Beyond Why You First Stopped a Driver


Reasonable suspicion to believe a vehicle is not properly licensed is sufficient cause to stop the vehicle and investigate. The ensuing determination that the vehicle is, in fact, properly registered requires that once the mission of the traffic stop is completed, the driver must be allowed to leave. An intervening inquiry into other possible criminal conduct that prolongs the detention necessitates the suppression of any information or evidence discovered afterward. 


In May, 2021, defendant Anterion Dantelamar Suggs was driving with an acquaintance through Sacramento when a Sacramento Police Department officer observed that his car displayed a paper plate only, with no visible evidence that the car was properly registered or had permanent plates, in an apparent violation of Vehicle Code § 5200. The officer made a traffic stop, but upon walking up to the car, the officer immediately noticed the necessary documentation was attached to the rear window, although it was obscured by the window tinting.  

Despite this new information, the officer contacted Suggs anyway and asked him about the purchase of his vehicle. Suggs provided the officer with out-of-state purchase paperwork. After asking where they were headed (it’s unknown if there was a response), the officer then asked for identification from Suggs and his companion. Suggs asked in response whether “this (is) necessary?” After explaining that he was not able to see the car’s documentation through the tinted windows, the officer launched into a series of more probing questions such as whether there was anything “crazy in the car that [he] needed to know about,” whether they were on parole or probation, and whether they had been arrested previously.  

Suggs was cooperative in his responses. When the officer asked if he could search Suggs’ car. Suggs declined, saying he was “just trying to get on [his] way.” At this point, the officer took the subjects’ earlier obtained identifications to his patrol car and ran a radio check, resulting in the discovery that both subjects had suspended licenses and that the passenger was on searchable probation due to a firearms-related conviction. So, he returned to Suggs’ vehicle and conducted a probation “fourth waiver” search, finding a concealed firearm, ammunition and methamphetamine.  

Charged in state court with possession of a concealed firearm, possession of meth with the intent to sell and other related charges, Suggs’ motion to suppress was denied. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor gun charge and appealed his sentence of 90 days’ jail and one year of informal probation.