Mississippi Upholds Civil Rights | Part Two
A law enforcement officer may perform a traffic stop if he or she has probable cause to believe a traffic violation has occurred. However, traffic stops are protected by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A traffic stop begins when a vehicle is pulled over and ends when the police have no reason to continue the stop and inform the driver that he or she is free to leave. In Mississippi, if a person is arrested for a misdemeanor during a traffic stop, the arrest must be made as quickly as possible after the offense was committed. If an officer witnesses a person commit a misdemeanor and does not arrest the person, then leaves and returns, the officer cannot arrest the person without a warrant.
In Kim’s situation, there were two traffic stops. The first traffic stop was for speeding. At the end of the first stop, Trooper Hood told Kim that she could deal with the ticket in court and to have a nice day. When he walked by to his patrol car, he told Kim to drive off. Every indication from Trooper Hood was that the stop had ended. Because the stop had ended, Trooper Hood needed another valid reason to stop Kim a second time.
Trooper Hood testified that he stopped Kim the second time for calling him a “racist motherf—-r” and that this constituted disturbing the peace. The Mississippi Court of Appeals disagreed. In its opinion, the Court of Appeals held that Kim had not committed the offense of disturbing the peace when she was ordered out of her car. Because the only two people present were Kim and Trooper Hood, the court stated that Kim could not have committed that crime at the time Trooper Hood stopped her and attempted to arrest her. In other words, the second stop was illegal. Because the second stop was illegal, any charges that arose as a result of the stop were also illegal.
Kim came to Starling Law with pending charges and a trial date. We believed her rights had been violated, so we took the case. We defended Kim at her trial in the Justice Court of Monroe County, but she was found guilty on all charges. We appealed for Kim, and we defended her in the Circuit Court of Monroe County for her second trial. Again, Kim was found guilty on all charges, but we didn’t stop there. We challenged the State of Mississippi and took her case to the Mississippi Court of Appeals. All of this was done in the pursuit of justice for someone whose constitutional rights had been violated. After over four years, Kim was vindicated. The Court of Appeals reversed her guilty findings, and she was finally granted the justice she deserved.
We take our cases and our clients seriously, and we don’t give up when it gets tough. It took over four years, two trials, and three courts, but we finally got justice for Kim. Nothing we can do can replace the pain and emotional agony this event put her through, but Kim can find some solace in the fact that one of Mississippi’s highest two courts affirmed the constitutional rights that had been taken from her.
For those interested, the Mississippi Court of Appeals opinion is attached here. Additionally, I have attached excerpts from the brief prepared on behalf of Kim by Starling Law here. Finally, if you missed the first post, you can find it here.
As always, if you have been wrongfully injured by another person or company, please give me a call for a free consultation.