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State v. Highley

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 11-21-2013
Case #: S056079
Linder, J. for the Court; En Banc; Brewer, J. concurred; Walters, J. dissented.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/S056079.pdf

Criminal Procedure: An officer's mere request for and verification of identification is not a seizure. The encounter may become a seizure only when the manner and content of police questions, cause a reasonable person to conclude that the police are exercising their authority to coercively detain the citizen.

The State appeals from a Court of Appeals decision reversing the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress. An officer recognized the driver of a car Defendant was a passenger in as having a suspended license. After the car parked and the passengers got out, the officer requested Defendant’s license, which the officer briefly recorded and returned to Defendant. The officer returned to his patrol car to determine if Defendant was on probation and confirmed that he was not. The officer returned and asked the passengers and Defendant for consent to a search of the car and their persons, which they provided. The search revealed methamphetamine.

Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that his consent resulted from an unlawful seizure. The State responded that requesting Defendant's identification and running a check on his probationary status was not a stop, and that consent was voluntarily given. The trial court denied the motion because (1) Defendant was seized when the officer had his license, but it was pursuant to reasonable suspicion, and (2) the seizure was over when the officer returned the license. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that Defendant was seized beginning when his information was written down and continued through the probationary check because a reasonable person would believe that he was not free to leave. 

The Supreme Court held that a police request for formal identification is not, without more, a seizure under the Oregon Constitution. Such an encounter may rise to the level of a seizure when the content and manner of questioning would indicate to a reasonable person that the officer is exercising his reasonable authority to coercively detain the citizen.The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.