PEOPLE OF MI V RICHARD REESEAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN,
October 14, 2008
Wayne Circuit Court
LC No. 07-004985
Advance Sheets Version
Before: O’Connell, P.J., and Smolenski and Gleicher, JJ.
The prosecution appeals by right the trial court’s suppression of cocaine evidence
obtained after a search of defendant Richard Reese’s car and the dismissal of the related charge
against him for possession with the intent to deliver more than 50, but less than 450, grams of
cocaine. MCL 333.7401(2)(a)(iii). On appeal, we must determine whether the discovery of a
preexisting warrant, which was discovered only after the disclosure of Reese’s identity during an
illegal arrest, is a sufficient intervening and untainted event to justify a subsequent search of
Reese’s car. We conclude that, under the facts of this case, the preexisting warrant was an
intervening, untainted justification for the search of Reese’s car. For that reason, we reverse the
trial court’s orders suppressing the cocaine evidence and dismissing the charge against Reese,
and remand the case for further proceedings. This appeal has been decided without oral
argument under MCR 7.214(E).
I. Facts and Procedural History
In September 2007, two Inkster police officers conducted a routine patrol of an apartment
complex known for narcotics trafficking. When the officers arrived at the complex, they
observed Reese in a taxicab parked in front of the complex. As the officers approached the cab,
Reese shut off the engine and got out of the cab. An officer testified that, even before they asked
him any questions, Reese asked, “What are you fucking with me for[?]” An officer stated that
they informed Reese that the area was known for drug trafficking and asked him why he was
there. Reese responded that he was visiting a friend. The officer testified that he then told
Reese, “[E]ither you’re going to go visit your friend, or you[’re] going to leave the area.” But
Reese refused to do either. The officer stated that they informed Reese that he might be loitering
if he remained. The officer described Reese as agitated, upset, and very nervous. He stated that,
even after warning Reese that he might be loitering, Reese continued to hurl profanities at them
and did not leave the area. So the officers arrested Reese for loitering.
After placing Reese under arrest for loitering, the officers asked Reese for identification,
which he provided. The officers ran Reese’s information through the Law Enforcement
Information Network (LEIN) and learned that Reese had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant.
An officer informed Reese that he was also under arrest pursuant to the outstanding warrant.
After arresting Reese and placing him in the police car, the officers called for a tow truck and
performed an inventory search of Reese’s car. During the search, the officers found a duffle bag
between the driver’s seat and the front passenger’s seat. The duffle bag contained men’s
clothing and a brown paper bag with more than 120 grams of cocaine.
At Reese’s preliminary examination, the district court expressed its belief that the officers
did not have grounds to arrest Reese for loitering. Nevertheless, the district court concluded that
the officers had the right to search Reese’s car incident to his arrest pursuant to the outstanding
warrant. For that reason, the district court bound Reese over to the circuit court on the charge of
possession with the intent to deliver cocaine.
Reese’s counsel then moved to suppress the cocaine evidence and quash the information.
The circuit court also expressed doubt about Reese’s arrest for loitering and remanded the case to
the district court for a determination whether the police officers had probable cause to arrest
Reese for loitering. On remand, the district court determined that Reese’s arrest for loitering was
After the district court’s determination, the circuit court heard further arguments
concerning Reese’s motion to suppress the cocaine evidence. The circuit court concluded that,
because Reese’s initial arrest was illegal, everything discovered as a result of that arrest had to be
suppressed. For that reason, the circuit court granted Reese’s motion.
The trial court later dismissed the charges against Reese. The prosecution appealed.
II. Suppression of Evidence
A. Standard of Review
On appeal, the prosecution argues that the circuit court erred when it determined that the
cocaine evidence had to be suppressed. Specifically, the prosecution argues that the only thing
derived from the illegal arrest for loitering was Reese’s identity, which is not evidence. Because
the police officers properly arrested Reese pursuant to the outstanding misdemeanor warrant, the
prosecution further contends, the police could properly search Reese’s car incident to that arrest.
This Court reviews a trial court’s factual findings in a suppression hearing for clear error, People
v Jenkins, 472 Mich 26, 31; 691 NW2d 759 (2005), but reviews de novo the trial court’s ultimate
ruling on the motion to suppress, People v Williams, 472 Mich 308, 313; 696 NW2d 636 (2005).
B. The Exclusionary Rule
Both the United States Constitution and the Michigan Constitution protect persons
against unreasonable searches and seizures. US Const, Am IV; Const 1963, art 1, § 11; Jenkins,
supra at 31. In order to lawfully arrest a person without a warrant, a police officer must “possess
information demonstrating probable cause to believe that an offense has occurred and that the
defendant committed it.” People v Champion, 452 Mich 92, 115; 549 NW2d 849 (1996). Once
police officers lawfully arrest a person, the officers may search that person without further
justification. Id. The permissible scope of a search incident to lawful arrest includes a search of
the passenger compartment of a car recently occupied by the person arrested. People v Mungo,
277 Mich App 577, 585-586; 747 NW2d 875 (2008), citing Thornton v United States, 541 US
615, 622; 124 S Ct 2127; 158 L Ed 2d 905 (2004). See also New York v Belton, 453 US 454;
101 S Ct 2860; 69 L Ed 2d 768 (1981).
However, evidence discovered in a search incident to an unlawful arrest may be subject
to the exclusionary rule as the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” See Wong Sun v United States, 371
US 471, 487-488; 83 S Ct 407; 9 L Ed 2d 441 (1963). The exclusionary rule is a “judicially
created remedy designed to safeguard against future violations of Fourth Amendment rights
through the rule’s general deterrent effect.” Arizona v Evans, 514 US 1, 10; 115 S Ct 1185; 131
L Ed 2d 34 (1995). For that reason, its application has been restricted to “those instances where
its remedial objectives are thought most efficaciously served.” Id. at 11. And whether
application of the exclusionary rule is appropriate in a particular context is a separate inquiry
from whether the police actually violated the Fourth Amendment rights of the person invoking
the rule. Id. at 10. Further, not “all evidence is ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ simply because it
would not have come to light but for the illegal actions of the police.” Wong Sun, supra at 488.
Rather, whether the evidence must be suppressed depends on whether the evidence was
discovered through “‘exploitation of that illegality or instead by means sufficiently
distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint.’” Id. (citation omitted); see also People v
Lambert, 174 Mich App 610, 616-617; 436 NW2d 699 (1989).
In this case, the prosecutor does not contest the district court’s determination that the
police officers did not have probable cause to arrest Reese for loitering and, therefore, that that
arrest was illegal. Hence, whether the circuit court properly suppressed the cocaine evidence
depends on whether that evidence was only “‘come at by exploitation’” of the illegal arrest for
loitering—“‘or instead by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint.’”
Wong Sun, supra at 488 (citation omitted).
C. Intervening Circumstances
After the officers unlawfully arrested Reese for loitering, they obtained Reese’s name and
conducted a LEIN check. The LEIN check revealed that Reese had an outstanding misdemeanor
warrant. On the basis of this information, the officers also arrested Reese for the misdemeanor.1
On appeal, Reese argues that he did not actually have a misdemeanor warrant outstanding at the
time of his arrest. However, even if we were to conclude that the LEIN check was inaccurate,
that alone would not necessitate the exclusion of evidence discovered after a search incident to
an arrest based on that information. See Arizona v Evans, 514 US 1, 15-16; 115 S Ct 1185; 131
L Ed 2d 34 (1995) (refusing to apply exclusionary rule to evidence found after a search incident
to an arrest based on a quashed warrant where there was no evidence that “the arresting officer
was not acting objectively reasonably when he relied upon the police computer record”); United
States v Leon, 468 US 897; 104 S Ct 3405; 82 L Ed 2d 677 (1984) (refusing to apply the
exclusionary rule to evidence found in the execution of a search warrant, which was later
determined to be invalid, where the police officers acted in objectively reasonable reliance on the
It was only after the officers informed Reese of this additional ground for his arrest that they
proceeded to search his car and discovered the cocaine. Because the officers could lawfully
search Reese’s car incident to his arrest pursuant to the outstanding warrant, Mungo, supra at
585-586, we must determine whether the discovery of this preexisting warrant constitutes an
independent basis, which dissipates the taint from the initial illegal arrest, for conducting the
search of Reese’s car.
On appeal, Reese notes that the police officers would not have been able to perform a
LEIN check had they not learned his name, which they learned only after his illegal arrest.
Because the discovery of his name was tainted by the illegal arrest, the discovery of the warrant
was similarly tainted. For this reason, Reese contends, this Court must conclude that there was
no basis for the search of his car. Although there are apparently no Michigan authorities directly
on point, several foreign jurisdictions have confronted factual situations similar to this one.
A leading case on this issue is United States v Green, 111 F3d 515 (CA 7, 1997). In
Green, two police officers on routine patrol observed a car ahead of them and that one of the
officers recognized as having been parked in front of the residence of a person wanted on a
federal warrant. Id. at 517. The officers decided to follow the car on the chance that the wanted
person might be in it or that the occupants might know that person’s whereabouts. After turning
a corner, the driver of the car made a u-turn, turned abruptly on to another street, and stopped on
a driveway. The officers followed the car and blocked the driveway with their car. Id.
The driver of the car, David Green, got out and began walking to the house, but stopped
after one of the officers hailed him. Id. While one of the officers obtained David’s
identification, the other obtained identification from David’s passenger, who turned out to be
David’s brother, Avery. After checking the brothers’ identities in their computer system, the
officers discovered that Avery had an outstanding warrant. Id. The officers then searched the
car and discovered crack cocaine and a gun. Id. David was later convicted by a jury of charges
related to his possession of the cocaine and the gun. Id. at 518.
On appeal, David argued that the trial court erred when it refused to suppress evidence of
the gun and the crack cocaine seized after the illegal stop. Id. The court agreed with Green’s
contentions that the stop was illegal and that “‘but for’ the illegal traffic stop, the police would
never have discovered the cocaine and gun.” Id. at 520. But, citing Wong Sun, supra at 487
488, the court noted that the Supreme Court had rejected a simple causation analysis: “Thus,
‘[e]ven in situations where the exclusionary rule is plainly applicable, [the Supreme Court has]
search warrant); see also People v Goldston, 470 Mich 523; 682 NW2d 479 (2004) (adopting a
good faith exception to the exclusionary rule). Instead, if the police officers relied in good faith
on the information provided by the LEIN check, the evidence would not be subject to the
exclusionary rule. Evans, supra at 15-16. Because there is no evidence that the arresting
officers were not acting objectively reasonably when they relied on the information provided by
the LEIN check, even if the arrest based on the warrant disclosed by the LEIN system were
unlawful, the cocaine evidence discovered as a search incident to that arrest would not be subject
to the exclusionary rule. For that reason, the primary issue on appeal remains whether the
discovery of the cocaine was the result of the exploitation of Reese’s illegal arrest for loitering.
declined to adopt a “per se” or “but for” rule that would make inadmissible any evidence,
whether tangible or live-witness testimony, which somehow came to light through a chain of
causation that began with an illegal arrest.’” Id., quoting United States v Cecolini, 435 US 268,
276; 98 S Ct 1054; 55 L Ed 2d 268 (1978). Rather, the court stated, the proper question is
whether the evidence came to light through exploitation of the illegal conduct or by means
sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of the taint from the illegal conduct. Id. at 520-521,
citing Wong Sun, supra at 488. The court further noted that “[e]vidence may be ‘sufficiently
distinguishable to be purged of the primary taint’ if ‘the causal connection between [the] illegal
police conduct and the procurement of [the] evidence is “so attenuated as to dissipate the taint”
of the illegal action.’” Green, supra at 521, quoting United States v Liss, 103 F3d 617, 620 (CA
7, 1997), quoting United States v Fazio, 914 F2d 950, 957 (CA 7, 1990). The court then noted
that there were three factors for determining “whether the causal chain has been sufficiently
attenuated to dissipate the taint of illegal conduct: (1) the time elapsed between the illegality and
the acquisition of the evidence; (2) the presence of the intervening circumstances; and (3) the
purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.” Green, supra at 521, citing Brown v Illinois,
422 US 590, 603-604; 95 S Ct 2254; 45 L Ed 2d 416 (1975).
In analyzing these factors, the court noted that the first factor weighed in favor of
suppression, but that it was not dispositive on the question of taint. Instead, the court focused on
the second and third factors. Green, supra at 521. With regard to the second factor, the court
concluded that the discovery of the arrest warrant for Avery was an intervening circumstance
that was not outweighed by flagrant official misconduct and, consequently, dissipated any taint
caused by the illegal stop.
It would be startling to suggest that because the police illegally stopped an
automobile, they cannot arrest an occupant who is found to be wanted on a
warrant—in a sense requiring an official call of “Olly, Olly, Oxen Free.” Because
the arrest is lawful, a search incident to the arrest is also lawful. The lawful arrest
of Avery constituted an intervening circumstance sufficient to dissipate any taint
caused by the illegal automobile stop. [Id.]
Finally, the court turned to the third factor, which it noted was “‘tied to the rationale of
the exclusionary rule itself,’” and aimed at exploring whether the police exploited their illegal
conduct. Id. at 523, quoting Fazio, supra at 958. The court concluded that under the facts of the
case, the police misconduct was not flagrant. The court explained that, although the stop was
illegal, there was no evidence of bad faith on the part of the officers and the purpose of the stop
was not to obtain evidence against the Greens. Green, supra at 523.
Nor did the police exploit the stop in order to search the automobile.
Rather the search only came after they learned that Avery was wanted on a
warrant and arrested him. While the officers learned of the outstanding warrant
only after continuing the illegal detention, the arrest of Avery was not an
exploitation of the illegal stop. [Id.]
For these reasons, the court concluded that Green was not entitled to have the cocaine and gun
evidence suppressed. Id.
Courts in several jurisdictions have come to the same legal conclusion on facts analogous
to those of Green.2 Of those jurisdictions, the Alaska Supreme Court’s analysis in McBath v
Alaska, 108 P3d 241 (Alas, 2005), is particularly informative.
The defendant in McBath was the passenger in a truck that was stopped for having an
expired license plate. McBath, supra at 242. After stopping the truck, the police discovered that
the driver was intoxicated and they arrested him. The police told McBath that he was free to go.
Id. However, McBath then called out to the driver and asked him if there was anything that
McBath should remove from the truck before it was towed. The driver asked McBath to remove
a toolbox and an unopened 12-pack of beer. Id. The police were willing to permit McBath to
remove the items, but insisted that he give his name first. When McBath first refused and later
provided an unlikely name, the police decided to detain him. Id. at 242-243. McBath then
revealed his real name and, after a computer search, the officers discovered that McBath had an
outstanding warrant. The officers then arrested McBath on the warrant and searched his person
only to discover methamphetamine. Id. at 243.
See, e.g., State v Allen, 222 Or App 71, 79; 191 P3d 762 (2008) (noting that the discovery of
outstanding arrest warrants and their execution are intervening events that interrupt the causal
connection between the seized evidence and the prior illegal stop); Myers v State, 395 Md 261;
909 A2d 1048 (2006); State v Frierson, 926 So 2d 1139, 1144-1145 (Fla, 2006) (relying on
Green and refusing to suppress the evidence because, although the officer made a mistake in the
enforcement of the traffic laws, there was no evidence that the stop was a pretext or made in bad
faith); United States v Simpson, 439 F3d 490 (CA 8, 2006) (citing Green with approval and
concluding that, where the officers did not knowingly act unconstitutionally and did not
purposefully act in an effort to gain evidence, the discovery of a preexisting warrant will
constitute an independent basis for questioning and searching the defendant); Jacobs v State, 128
P3d 1085 (Okla Crim App, 2006); State v Page, 140 Idaho 841, 846; 103 P3d 454 (2004); Hardy
v Commonwealth, 149 SW3d 433, 436 (Ky App, 2004); Quinn v State, 792 NE2d 597 (Ind App,
2003); Fletcher v State, 90 SW3d 419 (Tex App, 2002); State v Jones, 270 Kan 526, 529; 17 P3d
359 (2001) (relying on Green and concluding that, because there was no evidence of bad faith on
the part of the officer, once he discovered the outstanding warrant, the officer had the right and
duty to arrest the defendant and effect a subsequent search); People v Murray, 312 Ill App 3d
685, 691-692; 728 NE2d 512 (2000) (characterizing the notion that the police cannot arrest a
person on a valid warrant after an illegal stop as “illogical and nonsensical”); State v Hill, 725 So
2d 1282, 1287 (La, 1998); Ruffin v State, 201 Ga App 792; 412 SE 2d 850 (1991); State v
Thompson, 231 Neb 771; 438 NW2d 131 (1989); State v Lamaster, 652 SW2d 885 (Mo App,
1983); People v Hillyard, 197 Colo 83; 589 P2d 939 (1979); State v Rothenberger, 73 Wash 2d
596, 598; 440 P2d 184 (1968) (stating that the suggestion that officers may not make an arrest on
a valid warrant after an illegal stop as “indescribably silly”). See also United States v Hudson,
405 F3d 425, 438 (CA 6, 2005) (approvingly citing Green, but concluding that a stop to see if
the person stopped is the person named in a warrant is illegal and that the evidence discovered
incident to a subsequent arrest must be suppressed); State v Soto, 143 NM 631; 179 P3d 1239
(2008) (concluding that a search subsequent to discovery of a preexisting search warrant was
tainted where the purpose of the stop was to run a warrant check). But see Sanchez v State, 803
NE2d 215, 222 (Ind App, 2004) (declining to follow Quinn).
On appeal, McBath argued that the methamphetamine should have been suppressed as
the fruit of the illegal stop. Id. The court in McBath examined Green, as well as several foreign
authorities and concluded that the proper test for determining whether the methamphetamine
should be suppressed must be determined by examining the Brown factors. Id. at 248, citing
Brown, supra at 603. However, the court noted that the first Brown factor will invariably favor
suppression because, in cases involving the discovery of a preexisting warrant, there will almost
always be very little time between the illegal stop and the discovery of the warrant. Yet, the
court stated that, “the courts that have considered this question have all but unanimously
concluded that, in this kind of situation, the first Brown factor is outweighed by the others.”
McBath, supra at 248.
The following rule emerges from these cases: If, during a non-flagrant but
illegal stop, the police learn the defendant’s name, and the disclosure of that name
leads to the discovery of an outstanding warrant for the defendant’s arrest, and the
execution of that warrant leads to the discovery of evidence, the existence of the
arrest warrant will be deemed an independent intervening circumstance that
dissipates the taint of the initial illegal stop vis-à-vis the evidence discovered as a
consequence of a search incident to the execution of the arrest warrant. [Id.]
Because it was persuaded that this rule was consistent with the policy behind the exclusionary
rule, that is to deter police misconduct, the court in McBath adopted the rule that “a pre-existing
arrest warrant can (depending on the circumstances) dissipate or attenuate the taint of a prior
illegal stop.” Id. at 249. Because the police conduct was not flagrant or egregious under the
circumstances and the search occurred only after the discovery of the arrest warrant, the court
concluded that any taint from the illegal stop was too attenuated to affect the admissibility of the
methamphetamine. Id. at 249-250.
We agree with the reasoning in McBath and Green and join those jurisdictions that hold
that discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant can dissipate or attenuate the taint of an initial
illegal stop or arrest. As the court in Jacobs v State, 128 P3d 1085, 1089 (Okla Crim App, 2006)
Our decision balances a defendant’s right against illegal search and seizure
with the community’s expectation that a valid arrest warrant may be served upon
a subject, even if police learned about the arrest warrant after an illegal stop. This
rule discourages police from flagrantly illegal, investigatory seizures. At the
same time, it does not attempt to punish police for mistakes or errors made in
good faith. Such punishment would be unlikely to deter police misconduct.
We are also mindful of the serious implications that would follow from a contrary holding:
“For example, if the police illegally detain a suspect and discover arrest warrants, may they
release the suspect and re-arrest him and then conduct a legal search? If not, is he forever
immune from the consequences of a search incident to a subsequent arrest under those same
warrants? If so, when can they re-arrest him? After he steps outside the door of the police
station? A block away? The same day?” Fletcher, supra at 421.
D. Application of the Law to the Facts
Although courts confronted with this issue should examine each of the factors from
Brown, whether the discovery of a preexisting warrant dissipates or attenuates the illegality of
the initial stop or arrest will usually depend on two main points: “(1) what evidence did the
police obtain from the initial illegal stop before they discovered the outstanding arrest warrant,
and (2) whether that initial illegal stop was a manifestation of flagrant police misconduct—i.e.,
conduct that was obviously illegal, or that was particularly egregious, or that was done for the
purpose of abridging the defendant’s rights.” McBath, supra at 248 (emphasis in original).
Purposeful and flagrant misconduct exists where “(1) the impropriety of the official’s
misconduct was obvious or the official knew, at the time, that his conduct was likely
unconstitutional” but engaged in it anyway, or where “(2) the misconduct was investigatory in
design and purpose and executed ‘in the hope that something might turn up.’” United States v
Simpson, 439 F3d 490, 496 (CA 8, 2006), quoting Brown, supra at 605. But where the police
only discover the defendant’s identity as a result of the initial illegal stop or arrest, and the police
misconduct was not particularly egregious or the result of bad faith, the discovery of a
preexisting arrest warrant will constitute an intervening circumstance that dissipates the taint of
the initial illegal stop or arrest. As such, evidence that is discovered in a subsequent search
incident to the lawful arrest need not be suppressed.
In the present case, there is no evidence that the officers’ decision to initially speak to
Reese was motivated by an improper purpose or that they improperly detained him. Indeed, the
officers not only made it clear to Reese that he was free to go, they actually asked him to leave at
least twice. There is also no evidence that the officers’ ultimate decision to arrest Reese for
loitering was motivated by an investigatory purpose—a desire to discover Reese’s identity for a
LEIN check or as a pretext to search his car. And, although the decision to arrest Reese for
loitering may have been influenced by Reese’s belligerent refusal to move along, there is also
evidence that the officers genuinely believed that Reese committed the offense of loitering. See
Simpson, supra at 496. Hence, the misconduct at issue was not flagrant or particularly egregious
and may have been the result of a mistaken belief about the nature of the loitering offense.
Furthermore, even though the officers placed Reese under arrest for loitering, they did not
immediately search his car.4 Instead, they obtained his name and conducted a LEIN check,
which revealed an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. It was only after the officers placed Reese
under arrest pursuant to the outstanding warrant that they searched his car and discovered the
Because the officers’ initial misconduct—the arrest for loitering—was not particularly
egregious or motivated by bad faith and only yielded Reese’s identity, the subsequent discovery
of the preexisting arrest warrant was not tainted by the illegality of that initial arrest. As such,
the discovery of the preexisting warrant constituted an intervening circumstance that broke the
Had the officers searched Reese’s car under authority of the illegal arrest and only later
discovered the preexisting warrant, the discovery of the preexisting arrest warrant could not have
served to dissipate or attenuate the illegality of the arrest and, accordingly, the cocaine evidence
would clearly have been the “fruit” of the illegal arrest. See McBath, supra at 249.
causal connection between the illegal arrest and the discovery of the cocaine evidence. Because
the search was independently justified as a search incident to the lawful arrest on the warrant,
Reese was not entitled to have the cocaine evidence suppressed.
In the absence of egregious conduct on the part of the arresting officers, the discovery of
the preexisting warrant dissipated any taint occasioned by Reese’s illegal arrest for loitering.
Accordingly, the circuit court erred when it concluded that the cocaine was the fruit of Reese’s
illegal arrest and suppressed the cocaine evidence and dismissed the possession of cocaine with
the intent to deliver charge on the basis of that conclusion. Therefore, we reverse the circuit
court’s decisions to suppress the cocaine evidence and dismiss the charge against Reese, and we
remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We do not
/s/ Michael R. Smolenski
/s/ Peter D. O’Connell
/s/ Elizabeth L. Gleicher