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State v. Steffens

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 06-07-2012
Case #: A145746
Duncan, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; and Haselton, C.J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/Publications/A145746.pdf

Criminal Procedure: Outside the a natural lull occuring during the preparation of a citation or investigation, the police may only inquire about a matter unrelated to a traffic stop if there is a reasonable suspicion of crime-related activity or danger to the officer or the public.

Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm. He assigned as error the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop. Defendant was riding his bicycle at night in a crime-prone neighborhood, and two police officers in a patrol car pulled him over when he made a turn without signaling. The police noted he had a glassy-eyed expression and smelled of alcohol, but did not investigate further. However, when they checked for warrants under defendant's name, they discovered he had been arrested (but not convicted) for carrying a concealed weapon. There was no sign he was a danger to the police. They searched him without his consent and found a firearm. Defendant moved to suppress the firearm because its discovery was unrelated to the traffic violation. The Court explained that, during a traffic stop, the police may only inquire about a matter unrelated to the stop if there is a reasonable suspicion of crime-related activity or danger to the officer or the public. The Court found neither was present and that the trial court erred in failing to suppress. Reversed and remanded.