STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN,
November 16, 2010
Genesee Circuit Court
LC No. 09-024330-FH
TAMIKA MICHELLE HATTER,
Before: SERVITTO, P.J., and ZAHRA and DONOFRIO, JJ.
The prosecution appeals as of right the trial court’s order granting defendant’s motion to
suppress evidence and dismissing the charges against defendant. Because the trial court erred
when it granted defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of heroin and cocaine seized from
defendant following a traffic stop for which there was probable cause, we reverse and remand for
reinstatement of the information.
On April 16, 2008, undercover law enforcement officers from the Flint Area Narcotics
Group (FANG) surveilled defendant. The FANG officers placed defendant under surveillance
after receiving a tip from a confidential informant that defendant was in possession of heroin and
would be delivering it to a person in Grand Blanc Township. During the surveillance, defendant
was driving on the highway when one of the surveiling FANG officers determined that her speed
was approximately seven miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Based on defendant’s
speeding violation, the FANG officer radioed ahead to Grand Blanc Township police to request a
stop by a uniformed police officer in a marked cruiser. However, before the uniformed officer
could execute the traffic stop, defendant exited the highway and stopped at a nearby hotel.
FANG officers continued surveillance and defendant eventually exited the hotel, returned to her
vehicle, and proceeded to drive. FANG officers radioed an updated location to the Grand Blanc
Township police. A uniformed Grand Blanc township officer proceeded to stop defendant’s
vehicle. The officer asked her to step out of the vehicle and requested permission to search
defendant’s person. Defendant consented and the officer found at least one bag of heroin. The
officer placed defendant under arrest. FANG officers subsequently discovered another bag
containing cocaine during a search of her vehicle.
The prosecutor charged defendant with possession with intent to deliver less than 50
grams of a mixture containing heroin, MCL 333.7401(2)(a)(iv), and possession of less than 25
grams of a mixture containing cocaine, MCL 333.7403(2)(a)(v). Defendant moved to suppress
evidence of the drugs arguing that police improperly obtained the evidence because the officer
who effectuated the stop did not actually see the traffic violation as required by Michigan law,
MCL 257.742(1). After a hearing on the motion, the trial court agreed, suppressed the evidence,
and dismissed the charges against defendant. The prosecution now appeals, arguing that
although MCL 257.742(1) states that only an officer who witnesses a traffic violation may
execute the traffic stop, under the “police team theory,” an officer who witnessed a traffic
violation can relay information about the violation to another officer who performs the actual
On appeal from an order suppressing evidence, we review for clear error a trial court’s
findings of fact. People v Hyde, 285 Mich App 428, 436; 775 NW2d 833 (2009). A factual
finding is clearly erroneous when, “although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court
is left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.” People v Lanzo Const
Co, 272 Mich App 470, 473; 726 NW2d 746 (2006). We review de novo determinations of
whether the Fourth Amendment was violated, whether an exclusionary rule applied, and the trial
court’s ultimate decision on a motion to suppress. Hyde, 285 Mich App at 436.
In order to effectuate a valid traffic stop a police officer must possess an “articulable and
reasonable suspicion that a vehicle or one of its occupants is subject to a seizure for a violation of
law.” People v Williams, 236 Mich App 610, 612; 601 NW2d 138 (1999). Further, a
warrantless traffic stop is permissible when a police officer has probable cause to believe that a
traffic violation has occurred. People v Davis, 250 Mich App 357, 363; 649 NW2d 94 (2002).
The existence of probable cause depends on the totality of the circumstances of each case.
United States v Arvizu, 534 US 266, 273; 122 S Ct 744; 151 L Ed 2d 740 (2002). Probable cause
to search exists when facts and circumstances warrant a reasonably prudent person to believe that
a crime has been or is being committed and that the evidence sought will be found in a stated
place. Whether probable cause exists depends on the information known to the officers at the
time of the search. People v Beuschlein, 245 Mich App 744, 750; 630 NW2d 921 (2001); People
v Brzezinski, 243 Mich App 431, 433; 622 NW2d 528 (2000).
MCL 257.742(1) governs traffic stops for civil infractions and provides in pertinent part:
A police officer who witnesses a person violating this act or a local ordinance
substantially corresponding to this act, which violation is a civil infraction, may
stop the person, detain the person temporarily for purposes of making a record of
vehicle check, and prepare and subscribe, as soon as possible and as completely
as possible, an original and 3 copies of a written citation, which shall be a notice
to appear in court for 1 or more civil infractions.
MCL 257.742(1) appears to require that an officer who stops a person actually witness the
infraction. However, our Supreme Court has long recognized the “police team” theory in
application of MCL 257.742(1). The police team theory provides that an arresting officer may
rely on information provided to him by another officer in order to satisfy the “presence
requirement” of MCL 257.742(1). People v Dixon, 392 Mich 691, 696-699; 222 NW2d 749
(1974), abrogated in part on other grounds People v Hawkins, 468 Mich 488; 668 NW2d 602
(2003); People v Mackey, 121 Mich App 748, 753-754; 329 NW2d 476 (1982). Under this
theory, officers are allowed to “combine their collective perceptions so that if the composite
otherwise satisfies the presence requirement that requirement is deemed satisfied although the
arresting officer does not himself witness all the elements of the offense.” Dixon, 392 Mich at
Here, the FANG officer who witnessed defendant commit a traffic violation when she
drove in excess of the speed limit possessed probable cause to stop defendant without a warrant.
Davis, 250 Mich App at 363. Although the arresting officer did not witness defendant’s traffic
violation, under the police team theory, she was imputed with the knowledge of the FANG
officer. Dixon, 392 Mich at 696-699. Therefore, the arresting officer had probable cause for the
warrantless stop, and the stop did not violate the presence requirement of MCL 257.742(1).
Because the traffic stop was valid and defendant consented to the subsequent search, the
trial court erred when it suppressed the evidence. We reverse the trial court’s order granting
defendant’s motion to suppress and remand for reinstatement of the information and further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded. We do not retain jurisdiction.
/s/ Deborah A. Servitto
/s/ Brian K. Zahra
/s/ Pat M. Donofrio