The Oregon Supreme Court has banned police officers from asking random questions of drivers stopped in their vehicles. The questions, the justices ruled, must be “reasonably related” to the reason the cops stopped the motorist in the first place. The decision stems from the case of Mario Arreola-Botello, who was pulled over by a Beaverton Police officer in 2015 for failing to signal a turn. Arreola-Botello consented to a search of his car, leading officers to discover a package of methamphetamine on the floor.
Arreola-Botello’s attorney, Joshua Crowther, argued the search of his car was unconstitutional because it was spawned by questions that went outside the scope of what police should be allowed to ask during a routine traffic stop.
A trial court and the Oregon Court of Appeals had previously rejected the argument. Both courts cited precedent that officers could go off-topic during an “unavoidable lull” in the interaction, which usually occurs while the driver was busy searching for their license and registration.
The Oregon Supreme Court saw it differently.
“Put simply, an ‘unavoidable lull’ does not create an opportunity for an officer to ask unrelated questions, unless the officer can justify the inquiry on other grounds,” the decision states. OREGON PUBLIC BROADCASTING