Both the U.S. and Washington Constitutions prohibit warrantless seizures, unless the state can show an exception applies. Washington criminal defense attorneys know that one such exception is the Terry stop. An officer may briefly detain an individual if he or she has a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity based on specific and articulable facts the officer knows at the time of the stop. If the activity is consistent with criminal activity, it may justify a brief detention, even if it is also consistent with activity that is not criminal.
A Washington defendant recently challenged her convictions on the ground that the stop was unlawful. After being notified of unauthorized vehicles in his driveway, a man returned home to find he had been burglarized. He reported unauthorized vehicles in his driveway, and two men were arrested. He subsequently found another vehicle on the private road to his house and again called the police. The deputy who responded stopped a vehicle that appeared to be leaving the remote road. The deputy stated the vehicle was “loaded with goods,” so he asked the driver to exit the vehicle. He handcuffed her and put her in the back of his vehicle.
The property owner identified some fluorescent light bulbs in the vehicle as belonging to him. When asked why she was there, the defendant told the deputy she needed to urinate. She was arrested, and officers found a baggie in her jacket that contained a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine. She was charged with burglary in the second degree and possession of a controlled substance—methamphetamine.