Smith v. State

In Smith v. State, 515 So. 2d 149 (Ala.Crim.App. 1987) the Court held that a state trooper had a reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify the initial investigatory questioning of the defendant. In that case, the defendant drove around a curve, came within sight of a roadblock, and turned quickly into the driveway of a house 200 yards from the roadblock. He drove only partially into the driveway, turned off the lights on his car (despite the fact that this incident occurred at night), and left the engine running. Given these events, the state trooper working that roadblock formed a reasonable suspicion that the defendant was attempting to avoid the roadblock. The state trooper drove his car to the driveway, parked it behind the defendant's car, so as to block the defendant's escape, and questioned the defendant. The defendant admitted that he did not reside at that house and did not know anyone who did. He also could not produce a driver's license. When the state trooper asked the defendant to come to his trooper car, he noticed that the defendant was unsteady on his feet, exhibited slow reflexes, and smelled of alcohol. In deciding Smith, the Court of Criminal Appeals recalled State v. Betterton, 527 So. 2d 743 (Ala.Crim.App. 1986), in which it had held that a police officer did not need probable cause to believe that criminal activity was in progress before approaching a parked car, because the approach involved no initial stop or seizure. The court stated in Smith that the only difference between Smith and Betterton was that the state trooper in Smith drove his vehicle behind the defendant's vehicle, effectively preventing the defendant from leaving, and that "even at that time, ... the trooper already had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting [the defendant] of criminal activity; thus, a Terry [v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968),] stop was justified." Smith, 515 So. 2d at 151. The court further stated that the defendant's negative responses to the trooper's questions, coupled with his inability to produce a license, established probable cause to arrest him for driving with a suspended or revoked license.