Zimmerman v. Commonwealth – Case Brief Summary (Virginia)

In Zimmerman v. Commonwealth, 234 Va. 609, 363 S.E.2d 708 (1988), a police officer observed an automobile driven in a normal lawful way by a woman, with a man riding as a passenger in the front right seat.

The automobile stopped, and the man got out of the car and approached the officer to ask directions.

The officer gave the man directions to his stated destination, and the man walked back to the car and got behind the wheel.

The woman who had been driving moved over into the passenger seat. The officer, curious, followed the car and then stopped it merely to ask the occupants for identification.

The woman, Ms. Zimmerman, identified herself. A radio check by the officer disclosed that Ms. Zimmerman had been declared to be a "habitual offender."

The operation of an automobile by one so declared is a criminal offense in Virginia, and Ms. Zimmerman was charged with and convicted of that offense.

The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed her conviction, holding that the officer had no lawful right to stop the vehicle and that the evidence used to convict Ms. Zimmerman, viz, her identity as a habitual offender, was the fruit of the unlawful police conduct.