People stopped by Oregon law enforcement for minor traffic violations like failing to signal may no longer face “random questioning” that’s unrelated to why they were originally stopped. The Oregon Supreme Court recently ruled that a police officer can only ask questions that are “reasonably related” to the reason the driver was pulled over.
The Oregon Supreme Court’s ruling ends the practice of police to use minor traffic violations as a way to fish for evidence of crimes. Many officers have pulled people over for things like broken taillights and then have questioned them in an effort to find evidence of drugs.
Various law enforcement agencies were contacted by Oregon Public Broadcasting to find out how they were addressing police practices following the decision. The Salem Police Department and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department both stated that they were waiting for legal guidance from lawyers. The Oregon State Police, Beaverton Police Department and Gresham Police Department said that they were developing training bulletins for their officers in light of the ruling.
Someone who has been charged with a serious offense after being stopped for a minor traffic violation might benefit from speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer could investigate a client’s case to see if the reason given for the stop was pretextual. The attorney might challenge the admissibility of statements that the defendant made in response to questions not reasonably related to the reason for the stop. If legal counsel succeeds on the evidentiary motion, the statements and any evidence that has been gathered as a result of them may be suppressed. This could result in a dismissal of the charges against the client or help to secure a favorable plea offer from the prosecutor.