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Reasonable Suspicion Justified Traffic Stop; No Obligation to Record the Traffic Stop

In State v. Lenore Hayes, 2016 VT 105 (September 9, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court upheld a trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motions to suppress evidence from vehicle stop and dismiss her DWI case.

Issue: Defendant appealed a trial court’s denial of her motions to suppress evidence from a vehicle stop and dismiss her DWI case, arguing that (1) the stop of her vehicle was unconstitutional because she had not committed a traffic violation; and (2) the evidence should have been suppressed because the arresting officer failed to produce a complete video recording of the traffic stop.

Holding: (1) The arresting officer was justified in performing the traffic stop because he had a reasonable basis to suspect that a motor vehicle violation was taking place or Defendant was driving impaired regardless of whether any one of Defendant’s “missteps” actually amounted to a motor vehicle violation. (2) Because the Court has held that there is no legal duty for an arresting officer to record roadside stops, the arresting officer’s failure to record the stop was not negligent. Further, the failure to record the stop did not result in any prejudice to Defendant.

Concurrence: Justice Dooley issued a concurrence discussing that, for cases where the evidence at issue does not bear on the ultimate question of guilt or innocence, but rather is just potentially useful evidence, the standard for denial of due process is only found if a defendant can show that the arresting officer acted in bad faith. Defendant failed to do so in this case.

Concurrence: Justice Robinson issued a concurrence discussing the change in policing norms under which usage of dashcams and bodycam videos are becoming a standard part of policing, and arguing that the Court should not carve out this category of evidence from the general rule recognizing that, in some cases, a failure to collect evidence (regardless of having no statutory or constitutional duty to collect) may be so negligent and prejudicial as to warrant further review by the Court.

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