State v. Easton

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 07-23-2014
  • Case #: A149729
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ortega, P.J. for the Court; Sercombe, J.; and Hadlock, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

A police officer may take reasonable steps to protect herself or others, including conducting a warrantless search or seizure, "if, during the course of a lawful encounter with a citizen, the officer develops a reasonable suspicion, based on specific and articulable facts, that the citizen might pose an immediate threat of serious physical injury to the officer or to others then present"; the state bears the burden of establishing that, based on the totality of the circumstance at the time, "the officer subjectively believed that a defendant posed an immediate threat of serious physical injury and that the officer's belief was objectively reasonable."

Defendant appealed from a judgment of conviction for unlawful possession of methamphetamine under ORS 475.894 and subsequent judgment finding him in violation of his probation for committing the offense. Defendant assigned error to the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence resulting from a warrantless search. Officers responded to a report of a woman outside an apartment with a firearm; when officers arrived they found Wisman, who appeared to be under the influence of methamphetamine, lying on the ground with a firearm a few feet away from her. The officers arrested Wisman and received her consent to conduct a safety check of her apartment. Upon entry into the bedroom where the door was open and the light on, the officers observed Defendant sleeping on his stomach. Defendant did not respond when officers announced their presence; the officers, concerned that Defendant may be faking sleep or hiding weapons under his body, handcuffed Defendant. Defendant woke up and struggled. Officers rolled Defendant over and found a baggie underneath his body that was found to be methamphetamine. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence. This Court held that the officers did not have an objectively reasonable basis for believing that Defendant posed an immediate risk of serious physical injury, as the only basis for suspicion that Defendant possessed drugs or weapons was Defendant’s association with Wisman. Defendant was not required to respond to officers, and the totality of the circumstances did not establish that waking Defendant was reasonably necessary to officer safety. Both the judgment of conviction under ORS 475.894 and the judgment of probation violation reversed and remanded.

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