When can police stop me?

Posted by Neil P. Halttunen | Oct 07, 2021 | 0 Comments

ORS 131.605 to ORS 131.625 are Oregon's stop-and-frisk statutes addressing criminal investigation stops. They were enacted in 1973 after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Terry v. Ohio. When they were originally enacted, they were intended to be in part a codification of decisions by the United States Supreme Court and Oregon Supreme Court interpreting [Article I, section 9, and the Fourth Amendment. They have been amended over the years. In their present form, they authorize police to stop someone whom they reasonably suspect has committed or is about to commit a crime. The statutes authorize police to inquire about the circumstances that aroused the officers' suspicion, as well other circumstances arising during the course of the lawful stop that give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The statutes also authorize police to inquire during the stop about weapons, to request consent to search, and to frisk a person they reasonably believe to be armed and dangerous.

There are three generally recognized categories of encounters between police officers and individuals. In descending order of justification, they are:

(1) Arrest, justified only by probable cause;

(2) Stop, a temporary restraint of a person's liberty, justified by reasonable suspicion or, if the offense is a traffic violation, by probable cause; and

(3) Mere conversation or a mere encounter, questioning without any restraint of liberty, which requires no justification.

The question of whether or not you were stopped depends on what happened in your case. The courts have said “A seizure (stop) of a person occurs under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution: (a) if a law enforcement officer intentionally and significantly restricts, interferes with, or otherwise deprives an individual of that individual's liberty or freedom of movement; or (b) if a reasonable person under the totality of the circumstances would believe that (a) above has occurred. The “reasonable person” standard is actually harder to meet than you might imagine. For example, a police officer beckoning a person to come over may not be a stop. If you think you have been stopped illegally, you should contact a lawyer.

If you are pulled over driving a car, you have been stopped for constitutional purposes and the courts are clear about that type of stop. Police need probable cause of a traffic violation or reasonable suspicion of a crime to stop you in your car.

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