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People v. Campbell

Court of Appeals of Michigan

July 23, 2019

JASON SCOTT CAMPBELL, Defendant-Appellee.

          Mackinac Circuit Court LC No. 18-003947-FH

          Before: Sawyer, P.J., and O'Brien and Letica, JJ.

          Per Curiam.

         In this interlocutory appeal, plaintiff appeals by leave granted[1] an order granting a motion in limine filed by defendant, Jason Scott Campbell. The prosecution charged Campbell with three counts of carrying a concealed weapon in a vehicle, MCL 750.227, after Campbell disclosed the presence of the weapons in his vehicle in response to officer questioning during a traffic stop. On Campbell's motion, the trial court suppressed all three firearms and Campbell's statements concerning the same. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 19, 2018, Campbell was traveling in a pickup truck and pulling a trailer, on which sat a welding truck he had recently purchased in Minnesota for use in his business. A motor carrier officer (MCO) noticed that a taillight on Campbell's trailer was not working and signaled for Campbell to pull over. The MCO testified that he believed Campbell's vehicle was commercial because of its size and the equipment Campbell was pulling (the welding truck), which the MCO described as similar to a truck, but with unusual equipment mounted to it. The MCO testified that Campbell's pickup truck also had the name of a business, a symbol, and a phone number displayed on the tailgate, but did not have carrier identification displayed on the sides as required by state and federal regulations.[2] The absence of proper carrier identification did not lead the MCO to believe the vehicle was noncommercial because, in his experience, some drivers are unaware of the requirements applicable to commercial vehicles traveling across state lines.

         The traffic stop was recorded, although some of Campbell's responses are difficult to hear. The MCO approached Campbell's vehicle at 7:52 a.m., introduced himself, and advised Campbell that the right taillight on his trailer was out. The MCO asked Campbell about the nature of his travel and Campbell explained that he was traveling from Minnesota to West Branch, Michigan, to pick up a "bobcat" for a friend. The MCO then asked Campbell whether he had any guns or weapons in the vehicle. The MCO testified that he asked Campbell about the presence of weapons because Campbell seemed nervous and Campbell's hands remained on the steering wheel. In the MCO's experience, individuals who have a concealed pistol license (CPL) often exhibit similar behavior. Campbell admitted that he had a firearm, prompting the MCO to ask if Campbell had a CPL. Campbell answered that he did not, but explained that he lived in New Mexico, where he did not need a license or permit to carry a firearm in his vehicle.[3] The MCO confirmed that the gun was loaded and advised Campbell that he intended to verify the gun's registration. The MCO retrieved the gun, as well as Campbell's license and registration.

         From the patrol car, the MCO radioed a sheriff's deputy for assistance. The MCO summarized his discovery of the gun and made different statements about whether Campbell's vehicle was commercial. The MCO stated his uncertainty about whether Campbell's vehicle was commercial and, thus, whether the MCO had jurisdiction to conduct the traffic stop, [4] but also expressed his belief that Campbell might be lying to him. When the sheriff's deputy arrived and indicated that he could not "take over" a traffic stop initiated by the MCO, the MCO remained uncertain as to how to proceed and radioed his sergeant for guidance.

         After consulting with his sergeant, the MCO returned to Campbell's vehicle and advised Campbell that he would be taken to jail for carrying a concealed gun without a CPL. The MCO asked Campbell if he had any more weapons in the vehicle, and Campbell disclosed two additional guns. After handcuffing Campbell and placing him in the patrol car, the MCO and the sheriff's deputy searched Campbell's vehicle and located the two additional weapons. The MCO then read Campbell his Miranda[5] rights and questioned Campbell further about the guns.

         The trial court granted Campbell's motion in limine, noting that "[t]here was no insignia on [Campbell's] vehicle to suggest he was registered as a commercial vehicle," and that the MCO quickly came to the conclusion that Campbell was not a commercial carrier. The trial court found no evidence to support the MCO's justification for initially asking Campbell about weapons in the vehicle, i.e. that Campbell was acting nervous, and determined that the MCO's subsequent questioning about additional weapons constituted custodial interrogation without the benefit of Miranda warnings. Accordingly, the trial court suppressed all of the evidence from the traffic stop, including Campbell's admissions about the weapons and the weapons themselves.


         We review constitutional issues and the application of the exclusionary rule de novo. People v. Jones, 260 Mich.App. 424, 427; 678 N.W.2d 627 (2004). The trial court's factual findings with respect to a motion to suppress are reviewed for clear error. People v. Waclawski, 286 Mich.App. 634, 693; 780 N.W.2d 321 (2009). "A finding is clearly erroneous when it leaves this Court with a definite and firm conviction that the trial court made a mistake." Id. When the record contains a video recording of the events in question, however, this Court "need not rely on the trial court's conclusions as to what the video contains." People v. Kavanaugh, 320 Mich.App. 293, 298; 907 N.W.2d 845 (2017). We review de novo questions of statutory interpretation. People v. Anderson, 501 Mich. 175, 182; 912 N.W.2d 503 (2018).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. ...

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