On July 18, 2013, James Baker and a friend were openly carrying in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

The officers contacted the open carriers with drawn weapons, immediately disarming and handcuffing the two.  According to the radio calls at the start of the video, there was no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, just that two individuals were carrying rifles.  One officer then searches Baker, removing his wallet and ID from the wallet.

This is problematic in a couple of ways.  First, as was noted in an earlier post, open carry in Michigan is legal and is not reasonable suspicion for a stop. Second, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the officers had reasonable suspicion, Michigan law is clear that this does not provide an officer the authority to search for and seize an individuals wallet, then enter the wallet seeking an identification card or drivers license.  People v. Williams, 234 N.W.2d 531 (Mich. Ct. App. 1975) (“Assuming the officer’s initial stop and questioning was proper in the present case,it is clear that the seizure of the defendant’s wallet cannot be justified as a protective pre-arrest search since the purpose of the search was not to seize a weapon.”).

Further, the officer knew that he wasn’t arresting  Baker, as he told Baker just a few second later that he didn’t have a right to an attorney or to remain silent because he wasn’t under arrest (at 3:40).  Additionally, the officer states later, on the radio that this is an “open carry issue” (at 4:30).

Later, when it is back to video, a sergeant is trying to sell the story that it is a “public safety” issue–but the police don’t have the authority to detain someone unless they have reasonable suspicion of a crime.  The officers clearly have no grounds to detain the individuals for open carry where open carry is legal.  The intent seems to be to chill the individuals from exercising their rights, which is a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  See generally Ctr. for Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. v. City of Springboro, 477 F.3d 807 (6th Cir. 2007).

In the second video, the officer clearly doesn’t understand the law, asking if the individual has a permit for the firearms, apparently not knowing that no permit is required in Michigan to open carry.

The Chief of Police is Michael Reese, e-mail mreese@sterling-heights.net, phone 586-446-2810.

 

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