- Monday, 22 November 2010 09:16
In the recent case of Groves v. St., the Georgia Court of Appeals provides us with a very good explanation of exactly when a police “stop” in illegal.
Groves was parked at the edge of an otherwise empty parking lot of a truck plaza. When Groves began to leave the lot, a police officer stopped Groves. A subsequent search of Groves car found illegal drugs. Groves moved to suppress the drugs on the grounds that the “stop” was illegal. There are 3 types of citizen-police encounters, and whether the encounter is legal depends on the type of encounter. The 3 types are:
1. Consensual Encounter:This is a situation where an officer approaches an already parked car to see what is going on. The officer can ask for identification and freely ask the citizen questions without any belief that the citizen is involved in criminal activity.
2. Reasonable suspicionan officer may stop a citizen when that officer has a reasonable arguable suspicion that the citizen is or is about to be engaged in criminal activity.
3. Probable cause The officer has probable cause to detain and arrest the citizen.
A traffic “stop”, where the officer actually does something to force the vehicle to stop, falls under the 2nd tier; for the stop to be valid, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that the citizen has engaged in criminal activity, such as a traffic violation. This type of encounter is the one we most often see in DUI cases.
However, we also see situations where the citizen is parked in a parking lot, or their driveway, or is sitting in their car after having been involved in an accident. In those cases the officer does need a reason to approach the citizen to ask questions.