New Mexico v. Tapia

In an issue of first impression, the New Mexico Supreme Court addressed an issue of whether evidence of non-violent crimes committed in the presence of a police officer after an unconstitutional traffic stop had to be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment of the federal Constitution and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution. Defendant Edward Tapia, Sr. entered a conditional plea of guilty to one count of forgery, for signing his brother’s name to a traffic citation charging failure to wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle, and reserved his right to appeal. The Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, finding that the initial stop was illegal, and the subsequent evidence of concealing identity and forgery was not sufficiently removed from the taint of the illegal stop to justify admitting that evidence. The Supreme Court held the new crime exception to the exclusionary rule may apply to both violent and non-violent crimes committed in response to unlawful police action. Defendant’s attempts to conceal his identity after the unlawful traffic stop sufficiently purged the taint of the initial illegality so as to render the exclusionary rule inapplicable under both the Fourth Amendment and Article II, Section 10 of the New Mexico Constitution. The evidence of the seat belt violation obtained as a direct result of the unlawful stop was correctly suppressed. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals was reversed Defendant’s conviction reinstated. View "New Mexico v. Tapia" on Justia Law