The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that changing the color of your car, inconsistent with your registration, alone, doesn’t provide reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle.
In State v. Teamer, an officer observed Teamer driving a green Chevrolet. The officer then ran the number from Defendant’s license plate through the DHSMV database, as is customary for him while on patrol, and learned that the vehicle was registered as a blue Chevrolet. Based on these fact, the Defendant was stopped and arrested.
The 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 instant case, the State concedes that “the failure to update a vehicle registration to reflect a new color is not in specific violation of a Florida law.” Thus, what degree of suspicion attaches to this noncriminal act?”
Ultimately, the Court held that there is no suspicion alone.
What does this mean for you? It means be aware when you are driving the police are running your plates, registration, and licenses at all times looking for reasons to pull you over for vehicle stops. Keep your license up to date, register your vehicle every year, if you change the color of your car, let DMV know.