My question involves police conduct in the State of: Pennsylvania
My apologies but this is very long. Please note that I have never been a participant of a Live Stop or detainment and the information shared hereto is to frame the circumstances around the motor vehicle stop event.
My questions are:
- Was the detainment of all parties lawful?
- Was the time and actions pursuant of the stop reasonable and lawful?
The Live Stop incident occurred on the evening of July 5, 2012 / Center City area of Philadelphia.
Here are the FACTS as I know and understand them to be:
1. I was picked up from work by my fiancee' around 5:35pm. He carpools with his brother, so we generally drop his brother off at his home outside of Center City before taking ourselves to our place of residence. - There are 3 people in the vehicle during after work carpooling:the driver, myself on the passenger side and his brother as passenger in the backseat directly behind me.
2. 12 minutes later we are stopped by 2 police officers 2 blocks from my pick-up location.
3. Main / Driving officer proceeded to the window and asked the following questions which opened an encounter and dialogue with the driver:
- Officer asks where we are headed
- Driver states that he is taking me (his fiancee' home), but first drops off his brother at his home.
- Officer asks for license, registration and insurance.
- Driver produces valid drivers license and other documents, but shares that his insurance has lapsed and his registration is suspended, which he learned of a week prior while making a unrelated call to PennDot about renewing his registration which was due to expire on July 31, 2012 (shown clearly in plain view on his rear window tag).
- He then proceeds to tell the officer the circumstances at caused the current state of his documentation and his judgement around each matter.
- Driver then proceeds to ask the officer why he has been pulled over and receives no answer.
4. There is a partnering officer also on the passenger side of the vehicle during the dialogue and ensures me and the backseat passenger that everything should be ok with the license check etc.
5. Both officers return to their vehicle and take approximately 10 to 15 minutes before taking any further action to let us know of the proceedings.
6. Upon both officers return to the vehicle, the driver asks the officer once again why he has been stopped and the officer shares that his registration is suspended. He did not inquire further about the drivers insurance nor issue a citation for non production.
7. Both officers then proceed to have an encounter with the back passenger and ask for his identification. The back passenger complies and they take his identification to run through their data systems.
8. The officers did not opt to have an encounter with me of any kind nor ask for my identification.
9. Notably, at 6:02 pm I made initial contact via cell phone with an officer who is a family member. I was not sure if it was lawful to talk on the phone and had no way of asking the main officers permission without exiting the vehicle, however I proceeded to make the call as I believed I was being forced to sit in a vehicle without explanation of procedural steps in light of a heat index for that day that climbed between 105 and 110 degrees. I would venture to say that the heat index in the car at that time of day was well over 90 degrees.
10. I asked my family member what we could have done to circumvent the stop before it had gotten to this point:
- He asked if I was involved in a LIVE STOP. I told him I did not know what that was.
- He asked had the driver's tags been run while in transit? I said the likelihood of it was yes, as the driving officer did not give an explanation as to why the car was stopped other than suspended registration.
- He then instructed me to ask the main officer if we could speak to the officer's supervisor to request that he or she allow us to request a pardon given the valid circumstances around the registration suspension etc.
- I then shared my knowledge with the driver and waited for the return of the officers.
11. Upon their return, they proceeded to arrest the back passenger on a DWI warrant from an outlying county, while the passenger shared his belief that the fines had been taken care of. They searched him and confiscated his belongings before placing him in the back of the police car at or around 6:10pm.
12. At 6:27pm I receive a call from my family member who asked whether or not the issues have been resolved.
- I state no and that I am still inside the vehicle and it is unbearably hot.
- My family member then instructs me to ask the officer for his name and badge number as he believes it unreasonable to have us sit in a hot car for such a period of time.
- I explain that the officers are conducting business in their vehicle and that I am not able to ask at that point. He then instructs me to take down the police vehicle number.
- I inform him that it is not in plain view and that I will need to get out of the car to view it.
- I ask him if it is OK for me to get out and he says yes.
- He also instructs me to ask the officer if we are involved in a LIVE STOP.
- I heed his request with phone in hand and exit the vehicle in plain view to take the car number and ask the main officer if we are involved in a LIVE STOP.
- The officer tells me that I need to get back into the vehicle and that I was not instructed to leave the vehicle. As I am escorted I share with the officer that I was on the phone with another officer and he ensured me that I could exit the vehicle to obtain information.
- The officer shared that I was not to leave the vehicle and that I could have run on foot or approached them to cause harm.
- He also told me that the officer on the phone was wrong and that I could not leave the vehicle.
- I then re-entered the vehicle and closed the door.
- Several minutes later both officers return to the car and the main officer says that they are still looking into the issues with the back passenger.
- The driver then asks if he can roll down the passenger window as I am suffering from the heat (we had the air conditioner running prior to the stop).
- The officer then proceeds to come to my side of the car and let me out. An encounter then ensued between us.
- I asked why I was made to sit in the car and he stated that I was detained.
- I asked why I could not leave the car and go home on my own and he again stated that I was detained and that he was standing near me to continue detainment. I asked him what does it mean to be detained and he stated it is like being under arrest.
- He also stated that if he needed to step away for any reason he would have me return to the car.
- He also voluntarily stated that he generally does not allow the use of cell phones, takes them from passengers and places them on top of the vehicle so as to prevent fake phone calls or calls to other parties to come to the scene.
- He did not take my nor my fiancee's phone during the hour and 23 minute stop.
13. At or around 7:00pm a PPA tow truck appears and we are asked to retrieve our belongings, but prior to doing so the main officer searches inside of the car with a flashlight, which I believe was upon consent, however I was several steps away from the vehicle so I am not able to confirm the dialogue between the officer and the driver, but only on the subsequent actions of the officer. After the search, we were able retrieve our belongings and the driver is continually asked to open bags and share contents of other items as we pack and set them on the sidewalk.
14. At or around 7:10pm the car is towed and the officers leave the stop scene with the backseat passenger. Minutes later the officers return to give the driver back his driver's license and registration.
If nothing else I just feel I need to vent a little about this incident. We were not in a high crime area or committing any criminal acts during the stop nor do I believe there was suspicion to believe that we were.
If I have grounds, should I proceed with an official complaint? If so, what actions are found to be egregious if any? Were my actions at all egregious or questionable?