Supreme Court Upholds Search During Routine Traffic Stop

August 24, 2012

Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous opinion,theTennessee Supreme Court has upheld a search by the Metro Police after a routine traffic stop in Nashville. 

Shortly after midnight on March 20, 2009, police pulled over Wayne Donaldson for failing to either stop or give a turn signal at an intersection on Gallatin Road.  When the arresting officer asked Donaldson to step outside of his car, he saw cocaine inside.  Donaldson, who was charged with possession with the intent to sell or deliver 26 grams or more of the illegal drug in a school zone, had successfully challenged the propriety of the search in the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeals.

While applying the ruling of the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Pennsylvania v. Mimms, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that for safety purposes officers may, as a matter of course, remove a driver from his vehicle after a stop based upon a traffic violation.  In the opinion, which was authored by Justice Gary Wade, the Court warned that “the duration of an investigative detention should last no longer than necessary and should generally end when there is no further reason to control the scene or the driver of the vehicle.” Donaldson will now face trial on the drug charge in Davidson County.

To read the State of Tennessee v. Wayne Donaldson opinion authored by Justice Gary R. Wade visit  https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/donaldsonwayneopn.pdf.