E.D.Ky.: LPN scanner produced warrant for car owner, but driver was wrong gender; with other people in car, officer can assume owner in car

When a license plate scanner alerts on a car that the registered owner has a warrant and the driver is not the same gender as the owner, the officer can assume, for reasonableness or reasonable suspicion purposes, that one of the other occupants in the car is the registered owner. United States v. Whitis, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112923 (E.D. Ky. July 20, 2017):

Defendants point out that they did not commit any traffic infractions, and thus, the only basis for the traffic stop was the possible presence of Angela Burdine in the vehicle. Defendants then contend that Trooper Ramsey did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct such a stop because he could easily see that there were three males in the vehicle who clearly did not match the description of Angela Burdine, who is female.

As noted above, Trooper Ramsey testified that the Mazda first caught his attention because it was traveling at a relatively slow speed and its occupants seemed tense as they passed his car. When he ran the license plate, he discovered that the registered owner, Angela Burdine, had an outstanding warrant for her arrest. Trooper Ramsey was entitled to assume that Angela Burdine was one of the occupants unless he was aware of facts that made such an assumption unreasonable. He could tell that there were two men sitting in the front seats of the car, but he did not make any observations about the identity of the person sitting in the back seat. As a result, when Trooper Ramsey initiated the stop, he did not know that the third occupant was male and, thus, was not aware of facts that made it unreasonable for him to assume that Angela Burdine was in the car. In sum, the unusual behavior of the occupants, combined with the presumption that one of the occupants was subject to an outstanding arrest warrant, gave Trooper Ramsey reasonable suspicion to initiate an investigatory stop of the vehicle.

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