State v. Williams

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 06-03-2015
  • Case #: A153175
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: DeVore, J., for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; & Garrett, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether an encounter between a citizen and an officer qualifies as a stop is an issue of fact, determined by the totality of the circumstances. A citizen-officer encounter constitutes a stop when the officer’s words and/or actions would cause a reasonable person to believe that he is not free to end the encounter or go about his daily affairs until the officer indicates he is free to do so or issues a citation.

Defendant Williams appealed the trial court’s judgment convicting him of misdemeanor driving while suspended, ORS 811.182. On appeal, Defendant assigns error to the denial of his motion to suppress. At trial Williams and the State’s version of events differed significantly, but the trial court explicitly did not resolve the contradictory testimony, and accepted Defendant’s version of the facts and ruled that under either version the encounter was not a stop for purposes of Article 1, §9 of the Oregon Constitution. On appeal, Defendant argued the trial court erred by ruling he had not been seized under his version of events. At issue is whether the encounter that led to Defendant’s arrest was merely a non-coercive conversation or a “stop” that requires probable cause. Whether an encounter qualifies as a “stop” is an issue of fact, determined by the totality of the circumstances. A citizen-officer encounter reaches a “constitutionally significant dimension” when the officer’s words and/or actions would create in a reasonable person the belief that he is not free to end the encounter or go about his daily affairs until the officer indicates he is free to do so or issues a citation. The Court found that under Defendant’s version of events, the encounter would qualify as a “stop” for constitutional purposes. As such, the Court held the trial court must resolve the differing testimony regarding the encounter to determine whether or not the officers had probable cause to stop Williams. Vacated and Remanded.

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