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Oregon Appeals Court Affirms Oregon’s Restrictions on Extending Traffic Stops

The Oregon Court of Appeals has again confirmed that Oregon law restricts law enforcement’s use of a traffic stop to discover other crimes.  In State v. Klein (Appeals Court No. A136435, filed March 31, 2010), the court suppressed evidence of methamphetamine taken from a defendant’s clothing after a bicycle stop for bicycle traffic violations.

The defendant had been properly stopped for bicycle violations.  Detention required to conduct a warrants check (which disclosed the defendant was on probation for burglary).  Some brief inquiry surrounding a set of unusual-looking keys which the officer believed to be burglar tools was also appropriate.  However, the officer’s further questions regarding drugs and a consented pat-down and seizure of drugs were inappropriate extensions of the detention related to the initial stop.  “The officer unlawfully expanded the subject matter of the traffic stop by asking those [drug] questions without reasonable suspicion that defendant possessed drugs; and that the defendant’s consent to the search of his person was the unattenuated product of that unlawful conduct.”  The case is also helpful for its citation of earlier Court of Appeals decisions consistent with this approach.  See State v. Rodgers, 219 Or App 366 (2008), Affirmed 347 Or 610 (2010); State v. Kirkeby, 220 Or App 177 (2008), Affirmed 347 Or 610 (2010).

The opinion reiterates that Article 1, Section 9, of the Oregon Constitution applies to traffic stops, quoting the Rodgers and Kirkeby decisions:  “Police inquiries unrelated to a traffic violation when combined with physical restraint or a police show of authority, may result in restriction of personal freedom that violates Article 1, Section 9.

The case also offers good discussion of police “show of authority” (presence of a second officer, failure to advise that the motorist is free to go, no indication to the motorist that his continued apparent acquiescence to further questioning was required).  Police need not articulate any particular restraint on liberty in order to run afoul of the constitutional protections.

Notable quotes:

“Police authority to detain a motorist dissipates when the investigation reasonably related to that traffic infraction, the identification of persons, and the issuance of a citation (if any) is completed or reasonably should be completed.  Other or further conduct by the police beyond that reasonably related to the traffic violation must be justified on some basis other than the traffic violation.”  Rodgers/Kirkeby, 347 Or at 623.

“A traffic stop is not an ordinary police-citizen encounter because, in contrast to a person on the street who may end the encounter at any time, a motorist is not free to end the encounter when he or she chooses.”  See Klein.

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