RMV Stolen Car Records Presumptively Reliable for Traffic Stop

On August 14, 2015, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed a judge’s suppression of evidence that was found by a state trooper.  The lower court had allowed a defense attorney’s motion to suppress evidence, after applying the well-known Aquilar-Spinelli test to the evidence (Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) records indicating that the motor vehicle at issue was reported stolen) and finding that the RMV stolen vehicle record that the trooper accessed from his cruiser’s dashboard computer was not proven at trial to have been supported by a “sufficient basis of knowledge of the source of the information (the basis of knowledge test) and the underlying circumstances demonstrating that the source of the information was credible or the information reliable (the veracity test).”

The defense attorney had likened the RMV information to information from an anonymous source, which would typically be subjected to the Aquilar-Spinelli test.  The Appeals Court held that the Aguilar-Spinelli test, which requires, e.g., that police officers prove that information from informants comes from a reliable source and from a source with a basis for having the information reported, does not apply when an officer at roadside accesses his mobile data terminal (MDT) to query RMV records of reported stolen cars.

The Court, saying that “RMV records are generally considered reliable,” also noted that people reporting stolen cars are required to swear under penalties of perjury, and that falsely reporting a stolen car is a crime.  Accordingly, the Court reasoned, stolen car reports in the RMV database are presumptively reliable, and the Massachusetts state trooper relied reasonably on said records in forming reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop at issue.

Attorney Kevin D. Quinlan

Uxbridge, Worcester County, Massachusetts


Criminal Defense/Family Law/Ticket Appeals

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