State v. Jimenez

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 07-09-2015
  • Case #: SC S062473
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Walters, J. for the Court; Kistler, J., concurred and filed an opinion in which Linder and Landau, JJ., joined
  • Full Text Opinion

A routine weapons inquiry is unrelated to a traffic stop and violates Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution where the officer has no reasonable, circumstance-specific suspicion of a safety concern.

After an Oregon state trooper stopped Defendant for jaywalking at a busy intersection, and the trooper asked Defendant if he had any weapons, as he testified he did with all contacts on the street with pedestrians for "safety reasons." The trooper found a gun on Defendant and cited him for unlawful possession of a firearm but not jaywalking. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained after the trooper inquired about weapons, and the trial court denied the motion. Defendant was tried and convicted, and subsequently appealed. On appeal to the Court of Appeals the State argued that the officer-safety exception should apply to all inquiries about weapons because they always meet the standard articulated in State v. Bates, as traffic stops are inherently dangerous. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the trooper may not launch into an unrelated investigation unless the inquiry is justified by reasonable suspicion, occurred during an unavoidable lull in the citation-writing process, or an exception to the warrant requirement applied, none of which the State had proven at trial. On appeal to the Supreme Court the State argued that the weapons inquiry is not an unrelated matter because the presence of weapons is reasonably related to the safety of the investigation of a traffic violation. The Court agreed that in certain circumstances an officer's concerns may cause a weapons inquiry to be reasonably related to the traffic stop, but in this case the State had failed to prove the relation because the trooper stated he routinely inquired about weapons with all pedestrian stops. The Court held that a routine weapons inquiry with no reasonable suspicion of a safety issue is unrelated to a traffic stop and violates Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. Where the officer has reasonable, circumstance-specific suspicion of immediate threat of serious injury, however, the inquiry would be proper. Court of Appeals decision affirmed; circuit court decision reversed; remanded to circuit court for further proceedings.

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