When Traffic Stop = Seizure. Ferris v. State

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Brief Brief: Ferris v. State 355 Md. 356 (1999)

Issue:  What constitutes a seizure, under the Fourth Amendment, during a traffic stop.

Quotes:

“The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, including seizures that involve only a brief detention. (United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 551, (1980)). The Supreme Court has made clear that a traffic stop involving a motorist is a detention which implicates the Fourth Amendment. (See United States v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 682, (1985); Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 439, (1984) (analogizing the degree of intrusiveness of the usual traffic stop to the degree of restraint imposed by the typical Terry stop)). It is equally clear, however, that ordinarily such a stop does not initially violate the federal Constitution if the police have probable cause to believe that the driver has committed a traffic violation. (Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810, (1996)). Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has also made it clear that the detention of a person ‘must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.’ (Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500 (1983) (plurality opinion)).” (Id at 369.)

“In sum, the officer’s purpose in an ordinary traffic stop is to enforce the laws of the roadway, and ordinarily to investigate the manner of driving with the intent to issue a citation or warning. Once the purpose of that stop has been fulfilled, the continued detention of the car and the occupants amounts to a second detention.  (citation omitted). Thus, once the underlying basis for the initial traffic stop has concluded, a police-driver encounter which implicates the Fourth Amendment is constitutionally permissible only if either (1) the driver consents to the continuing intrusion or (2) the officer has, at a minimum, a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. (citation omitted).” (Id. at 372.)

“Although the inquiry is a highly fact-specific one, courts have identified certain factors as probative of whether a reasonable person would have felt free to leave. (See, e.g, United States v. McCarthur, 6 F.3d 1270, 1275–76 (7 th Cir.1993); United States v. Gray, 883 F.2d 320, 322 (4 th Cir.1989)). These factors include: the time and place of the encounter, the number of officers present and whether they were uniformed, whether the police removed the person to a different location or isolated him or her from others, whether the person was informed that he or she was free to leave, whether the police indicated that the person was suspected of a crime, whether the police retained the person’s documents, and whether the police exhibited threatening behavior or physical contact that would suggest to a reasonable person that he or she was not free to leave.” (Id. at 377.)

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