E.D.Mich.: By following def and causing him to slow down, the officer created the alleged violation of driving under the minimum speed; stop unreasonable

The DEA asked the Michigan State Police to stop defendant. A trooper followed him and he was driving the speed limit and violating no laws. The officer pulled up next to him to get a look, then slowed to pull in behind him. Defendant then slowed to 53 where 55 is posted as the minimum speed, only that’s not a legal minimum–it’s only suggested. More importantly, by following, pulling up next to defendant, then following again, the court finds the trooper caused the traffic violation. There was no other reasonable suspicion for the stop. United States v. Belakhdhar, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110514 (E.D. Mich. July 3, 2018):

The Government maintains that Daniels was justified in pulling over Mr. Belakhdhar because he observed him drive 53 mph on a section of I-94 in which the minimum posted speed limit was 55 mph.

This argument is unavailing, where, as here, the officer himself created the alleged traffic violation to justify the stop of the vehicle. See United States v. Jorge Nieblas-Cordova, 2008 WL 4368934, at *5 (D. Ariz. Sept. 24, 2008) (citing United States v. Sigmond-Ballesteros, 285 F.3d 1117, 1124 (9th Cir. 2002)). Mr. Belakhdhar slowed down only after he saw a marked patrol car driving next to him for nearly one minute, operated by an officer in uniform peering into his vehicle. Had Daniels not pulled up alongside Mr. Belakhdhar, presumably, he would have continued to drive the speed limit.

Furthermore, even if Daniels hadn’t created the alleged violation on which he bases the stop, the Michigan Vehicle Code does not prohibit Mr. Belakhdhar’s conduct. M.C.L. § 257.627(1) provides: “A person operating a vehicle on a highway shall operate that vehicle at a careful and prudent speed not greater than nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard to the traffic, surface, and width of the highway and of any other condition existing at the time.”

The presence of a marked state police vehicle, especially one that is moving at a high speed immediately adjacent to a civilian-driver, is a condition on which it is entirely reasonable and proper for the driver to rely upon when choosing to operate his vehicle below the minimum speed limit. See United States v. Coronado, 480 F. Supp. 2d 923, 928 (W.D. Tex. 2007) (noting that “[i]t is neither abnormal nor dangerous driving behavior for a driver to slow down with the approach of a law-enforcement vehicle.”). Surely, most responsible drivers slow down when they see an ambulance, fire truck, or police car on the highway. Not only is it sensible, it is the safest thing to do to avoid obstructing the vehicle in the event of an emergency.

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