State v. Pearson

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 04-23-2014
  • Case #: A150179
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ortega, P.J. for the court; Sercombe, J.; & Hadlock, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Article I, section 9 of the Oregon Constitution, which governs privacy rights with respect to personal effects, an officer unlawfully extends a traffic stop if he inquires about the presence of a weapon once the officer’s source of suspicion has been dispelled.

Defendant appealed his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, under ORS 166.250, and argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence of a firearm found in his car during a traffic stop, because the officer discovered the evidence only after unlawfully extending the stop. An Oregon State Trooper had stopped Defendant for speeding. As the officer approached the vehicle, he noticed what he thought was a box of ammunition. He asked Defendant where “the weapon” was, and Defendant responded by asking “what weapon?” The officer then realized that the box was not a box of ammunition, but was a box of cigarettes. The officer then again asked about the presence of a weapon. Defendant gestured toward the enclosed armrest, and consented to the officer’s request to search the vehicle. The officer discovered a handgun concealed in the armrest. Defendant did not have a concealed handgun license, and was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. The Court reasoned that even if a box of ammunition is enough to create reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or officer-safety concerns, those suspicions or concerns dissipate when an officer realizes that the item in question is not actually a box of ammunition. The Court concluded that the officer’s extension of the stop in this case was unlawful; the officer lacked reasonable suspicion that Defendant had engaged in criminal activity or that Defendant was a threat to the officer’s safety. Reversed and remanded.

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