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Oregon Supreme Ct - Jan 20, 2017

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by: Sara Werboff • January 24, 2017 • no comments

Officer's Request for Consent to Search was Not Reasonably Related to Purpose of Detention

The court concludes that an officer's request to search for drugs was not reasonably related to the purpose of a criminal stop and unlawfully extended the stop. The court further concludes that defendant's subsequent consent did not attenuate the preceding illegality. Police were pursuing a man, Hamilton, who fled when police tried to serve an arrest warrant. Hamilton had discarded a backpack as he fled. Officers observed a man matching Hamilton's description (and who turned out to be Hamilton), get into defendant's car. Within 10 seconds of seeing Hamilton get into defendant's car, police stopped the car and removed Hamilton at gunpoint. An officer went to defendant's side of the car, ordered him out of the car, asked for his license and then asked if he would consent to a search for drugs. Defendant consented and the officer found heroin.

The court notes first that in the context of a criminal stop, the test is not whether the officer has reasonable suspicion but whether the inquiry is reasonably related to the reason for the detention. Although the scope of questioning is broader in the context of a criminal stop, the state must still point to a "reasonable, circumstance specific" relationship between the inquiry and the reason for detention. Here, the state failed to meet that burden. On review, the state asserted that the request for consent was reasonably related to "exploring the relationship between defendant and Hamilton" because Hamilton could have passed drugs to defendant. The court concludes that the relationship the state proffers is too tenuous. First, the state assumed that Hamilton fled because he possessed drugs. Second, only 10 seconds passed between Hamilton getting in the car and the police stop. Third, searching defendant would not reveal the nature of defendant's relationship with Hamilton, only whether defendant possessed drugs. And finally, the state raised its theory of reasonable relationship for the first time at the Supreme Court, which "calls into question the validity of the rationale that the state now advances."

The court then concludes that defendant's consent did not attenuate the illegality. The court differs from the Court of Appeals analysis to clarify that just because consent follows shortly after an illegal request does not necessarily mean that the consent was the product of the illegality. Rather, the nature of the police conduct matters. Here, defendant's consent followed a significant show of force by the police.

State v. Pichardo, 360 Or 754 (2017) (Kistler, J.)