LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – In a landmark decision on Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court established definitive guidelines for when police can stop and detain individuals who do not consent to questioning. In a 5-2 decision, the court overturned previous guilty verdicts and introduced new standards for determining when police may treat someone as a suspect.

The case of Douglas Prude.

Douglas Prude’s encounter with Kalamazoo Police officers on May 30, 2019, was at the heart of this ruling. Prude fled from the officers after they attempted to detain him in a parking lot of a housing complex under surveillance due to recent crimes. He was subsequently charged and convicted of fleeing and resisting arrest. The central issue was whether the officers had the right to chase Prude initially.

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During the questioning, Prude asked if he was being detained. Upon receiving an affirmative response, he rolled up his car window and sped away. Prude’s defense argued that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity when they tried to detain him, thus making his departure lawful.

Supreme Court’s rationale.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion, authored by Justice Megan Cavanagh, asserted that the officers had no legal basis to detain Prude.

“Even the most cursory warrantless seizure must be justified by an objectively reasonable particularized suspicion of criminal activity,” Cavanagh wrote. The opinion emphasized that merely being in a high-crime area or refusing to identify oneself does not constitute reasonable suspicion.

“Without more, there is nothing suspicious about a citizen sitting in a parked car in an apartment- complex parking lot while visiting a resident of that complex,” stated Cavanagh. “Moreover, a citizen’s mere presence in an area of frequent criminal activity does not provide particularized suspicion that they were engaged in any criminal activity, and an officer may not detain a citizen simply because they decline a request to identify themselves.”

Implications and reactions.

Defense attorney Michael Nichols, not involved in the case, highlighted the decision’s significance. He noted that the ruling sets clear boundaries on police authority in Michigan. “What makes this so significant is you can’t just come to me and say, ‘high crime area, the person wouldn’t respond to me, and then the person took off when I told him to stop,’” Nichols said to Michigan Public Radio. He emphasized that such scenarios are common in Michigan and across the United States.

Dissenting opinions.

The court’s conservative justices, including Justice David Viviano, dissented. They supported the prosecution’s argument that the arrest and convictions were constitutional under the totality of

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circumstances. Viviano contended that the lower courts had rightly determined the officers had “reasonable suspicion” that defendant was trespassing based on their extensive familiarity with the complex and its criminal activity.

“The officers in this case were very familiar with this particular apartment complex and had been there over a hundred times, including in the previous week, to investigate a full panoply of criminal activity,” Viviano wrote.

Next steps.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the case will return to the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court for an order consistent with the new opinion. As of Friday, attorneys for both the defendant and the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor had not commented on the ruling.