Mistake of fact 4th Amendment violation
It is rare for a criminal lawyer in the District of Columbia or Maryland to take a “no permit” case to trial. The reality is that those kind of cases do not go to trial because they are some of the easiest cases for the prosecutor to prove. There are only 2 elements to prove in a No permit trial – 1)the defendant was driving the automobile; and 2) he did not have a driver’s license at the time.
Well recently, my no permit trial went to trial because the officer made a mistake of fact in reference to his criminal law case. The officer testified that he pulled my client over because when he entered data into his law enforcement database, a computerized database that contains information about stolen vehicles and license plates, among other things – it came back as “No record.” The Judge initially denied the motion to suppress and found him guilty of No permit. However, a day later, the Judge reconsidered because the Judge remembered the case of Duckett v. U.S. 886 A.2d 548 (2005) In Duckett the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held that there is no reasonable articulable suspicion where the officer runs the tags and it comes back “No record” and there is no other justification for stopping the automobile. Thereafter, I filed a motion for new trial and the Judge granted the request. Thereafter, the case was dismissed. You see because the officer had no basis to conduct a traffic stop he would not have found out that my client did not have a permit to drive. Everything from the stop was “fruit from the poisonous tree” – Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471 (1963)
The Officer’s basis for the stop of the automobile was a Mistake of Fact not a Mistake of Law
The officer in my case made a mistake of fact. A mistake of fact occurs when officers are wrong about circumstances that caused him/her to take action. The prosecutor in my case tried to argue that the recent supreme case, North Carolina v. Hein applied. However, the Hein case involved a mistake of law by the officer. A mistake of law occurs when the police officer is wrong about the law which his/her actions were based.
So if you are pulled over and accused of a crime, your criminal lawyer should explore all applicable cases for the justification of the stop.
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