Automobiles

FL Court: Cops Can't Pull Over a Car Just Because It's Been Repainted

The state provides no means of reporting you've changed your car's color

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Courts in Florida are now split on the question of whether motorists should be subjected to stop and search simply because they repainted their car in a new color. Last year, the Fourth District Court of Appeal said yes, they should be stopped. On December 21, the First District Court of Appeal came to the opposite conclusion.

This became an issue on June 22, 2010 when an Escambia County Deputy Sheriff saw a bright green Chevy. The deputy ran the plate and the record showed the vehicle was registered to a blue Chevy. The deputy initiated a traffic stop, and Kerick Van Teamer, the driver, explained his car had recently been painted. A search turned up drugs leading to Teamer's arrest. Teamer sought to suppress the evidence because he never should have been pulled over in the first place.

The sole issue before the court was whether a traffic stop can be based on a mismatch between a car's color and what is listed on the vehicle registration. Prosecutors argued the difference in color should be investigated as potential illegal activity of making a false statement on a vehicle registration. The First District judges agreed the discrepancy raises potential for concern, but they did not agree it would be enough to justify a stop.