N.M.I.: Can you overcome officer’s credibility questions by calling it a “reasonable mistake of fact”?

Even if the trial court were to credit the defendant’s version that his sudden lane change was to dodge a puddle or a dog, the officer didn’t see a puddle or dog, just the lane change and that made the stop at least based on a reasonable mistake. Commonwealth of the N. Mariana Islands v. Arurang, 2017 MP 1, 2017 N. Mar. I. LEXIS 1 (Feb. 23, 2017):

Officer Smith did not have knowledge of a dog or puddle on the road when he pulled over Arurang for lane deviation. We find Officer Smith’s mistake of fact to be reasonable. A reasonable mistake of fact could not invalidate a traffic stop when the officer had a reasonably articulable suspicion of a traffic violation. Police officers are required to act reasonably, not perfectly, under the Fourth Amendment. Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177, 186 (1990). As such, under the totality of the circumstances standard and taking into account Officer Smith’s training and experience, he had reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s decision to suppress the evidence gathered by Officer Smith after the traffic stop.

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