Johnson v. State

Clifton Johnson v. State, No. 1386, September Term 2017 Opinion by Kehoe, J. Criminal Procedure: Fourth Amendment: Traffic Checkpoints and “Traffic Initia- tives”: A “traffic initiative” conducted by the Baltimore City Police Department was not a traffic checkpoint for Fourth Amendment purposes. In conducting the traffic initiative, the police did not stop every vehicle, or vehicles in a defined sequence, and did not block or restrict traffic in anyway. The police only stopped vehicles whose drivers were not wearing a seat belt or using a cell phone. There was probable cause to stop appellant because an officer saw that he was not wearing his seat belt. Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No.: 116145002 REPORTED IN THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 1386 September Term, 2017 ______________________________________ CLIFTON JOHNSON v. STATE OF MARYLAND ______________________________________ Meredith, Kehoe, Berger, JJ. ______________________________________ Opinion by Kehoe, J. ______________________________________ Filed: September 9, 2019 Pursuant to Maryland Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act (§§ 10-1601 et seq. of the State Government Article) this document is authentic. 2019-09-09 13:40-04:00 Suzanne C. Johnson, Clerk While conducting what the Baltimore Police Department called a “traffic initiative” in downtown Baltimore, members of the Department stopped Clifton Johnson, who was halted at a red light, for failure to wear a seat belt. As a result of that stop, the police dis- covered an open warrant for Johnson’s arrest, as well as a loaded handgun under the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Johnson was charged with illegal possession of a regulated firearm, wearing, carrying and transporting a handgun on his person and in a vehicle, pos- session of ammunition, and operating a vehicle while not wearing a seat belt. Johnson filed a motion to suppress the evidence relating to the handgun, which was denied. A jury of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City convicted Johnson of illegal possession of a regulated firearm, wearing, carrying, and transporting a handgun on his person and in a vehicle, and possession of ammunition. Johnson has appealed his convictions and presents the follow- ing question: Did the trial court err in denying appellant’s motion to suppress because the evidence was discovered as a result of an illegal traffic checkpoint? We conclude that the traffic initiative in this case does not constitute a “checkpoint” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, U.S. CONST. amend. IV, and hold that there was no violation of Johnson’s Fourth Amendment rights in this case.1 We will affirm the con- victions. 1 Because Johnson does not contend that he is entitled to different or broader protection under Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, we consider his claims solely in the context of the Fourth Amendment. The Traffic Initiative On May 7, 2016, at around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m., seven officers from the Baltimore City Police Department stationed themselves at the intersection of West Pratt Street and South Payson Street to conduct a traffic initiative in order to find infractions of vehicles pertaining to seatbelts and cell phones. Two of those officers, ...

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