State Supreme Court All But Eliminates Pretext Stop

This week the State Supreme Court decided State v. Arreola. Unfortunately, they decided incorrectly.

The officer who testified in the case was very candid. He admitted that his attention was drawn to a vehicle which another witness told him was being operated by an intoxicated driver. He followed the vehicle for some time, but did not observe any traffic violations. He kept following and finally noticed the muffler was not regulation. It was allegedly emitting too much noise. The officer stopped the vehicle and eventually the driver was arrested and convicted for driving under the influence.

Despite prior precedent of State v. Ladson, the Court ruled that if the officer has a good reason to pull a person over, the stop is valid. The law used to be that if the officer was merely using a traffic infraction as a fishing expedition for other crimes, the stop was invalid and any resulting evidence would be suppressed.

The dissent by Justice Chambers correctly points out that this decision violates the Washington State Constitution.