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Oregon Supreme Ct - March 2, 2017

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by: Sara Werboff • March 5, 2017 • no comments

Search & Seizure - Police Must Have Suspicion of Specific Crime or Type of Crime

The Supreme Court rejects the state's argument that police may only have generalized suspicion that crime is afoot, and reinforces the reasonable suspicion standard to hold that police must point to specific and articulable facts that give rise to a reasonable inference that the defendant committed or was about to commit a specific crime or type of crime. Police were called about a possible disturbance at a home, specifically that a man named Wilson was threatening to break things. When they arrived at the home, they saw defendant walking down the driveway. Police thought defendant's pace was a "little bit rapid" and that he was coming from the home. Defendant did not want to engage with the police but ultimately stopped. Police searched him and found methamphetamine. Defendant was not Wilson. At the suppression hearing, police testified that they believed defendant was Wilson when they stopped him and that he may have committed a crime in the residence. When prompted by the prosecutor, an officer testified that he believed defendant may have committed criminal mischief, assault or menacing, based on the 911 call.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed. On review, the state argued that police were not required to suspect defendant of a specific crime so long as they believed a crime of some sort had occurred. The court rejects that argument, but acknowledges that it has articulated the standard slightly differently. The court holds that generalized suspicion of criminal activity is not sufficient, to hold otherwise would be inconsistent with the requirement that police identify specific and articulable facts. The court also reinforces that its review of the stop is based on the record made concerning the officer's actual belief that a defendant may have committed a crime and the specific facts forming the basis of that belief, which the court then reviews for objective reasonableness. Finally, the court concludes that the police lacked reasonable suspicion in this case. Although the police could infer that defendant was Wilson, they could not infer from the facts they articulated that defendant had committed any of the crimes the officer articulated.

State v. Maciel-Figueroa, 361 Or 163 (2017) (Nakamoto, J.)


Interrogation - Defendant Unequivocally Invoked Right Against Compelled Self-Incrimination

The court concludes that defendant unequivocally invoked his right against self-incrimination during a police interrogation. In 2015, defendant was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend in 2009. Defendant was arrested at the airport in California following an overseas flight and had not slept for an extended period of time. California detectives interviewed defendant. The detective read defendant his Miranda rights. Defendant answered a few questions. The detective then asked defendant about the circumstances of his girlfriend's death and defendant replied "it's not something I want to talk about." The detective pressed defendant, stating that he needed to make sure he wasn't about to lodge a serial murderer in his jail. The interview continued for about three hours and defendant talked about his girlfriend's death.

The court explains that defendant did initially waive his Miranda rights but holds that defendant then unequivocally invoked his right to silence. Although viewed in isolation, defendant's statement may be ambiguous, in context, it was not because the statement was made in direct response to the detective's request that defendant tell him about his girlfriend's death.

State v. Nichols, 361 Or 101 (2017) (Balmer, C.J.)