The Oregon Supreme Court recently ruled that Police Officers are not allowed to use the event of a traffic stop to make inquiries about matters that exceed the scope of the reason for the stop. Classically, Police have been able to make casual inquiries of drivers whom they pull over, which can then lead to further investigations of the driver or their car.
Now, however, Police in Oregon can only pose questions “reasonably related” to the purpose of the initial stop.
“The decision stems from the case of Mario Arreola-Botello, who was pulled over by a Beaverton Police officer in 2015 for failing to signal a turn. Arreola-Botello consented to a search of his car, leading officers to discover a package of methamphetamine on the floor.
Arreola-Botello’s attorney, Joshua Crowther, argued the search of his car was unconstitutional because it was spawned by questions that went outside the scope of what police should be allowed to ask during a routine traffic stop.
A trial court and the Oregon Court of Appeals had previously rejected the argument. Both courts cited precedent that officers could go off-topic during an “unavoidable lull” in the interaction, which usually occurs while the driver was busy searching for their license and registration.
The Oregon Supreme Court saw it differently.”
There is still leeway for Officers to inquire further of drivers if they encounter a danger to theirs or others safety, or if there are observable and articulatable factors to spur additional investigation such as the smell of alcohol, or spotting drug paraphernalia in plain sight.
A copy of the Oregon Supreme Court’s ruling can be found HERE.
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