May Investigative Detention Last Longer Than Necessary ?

A routine traffic stop closely resembles an investigative detention. Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 104 S. Ct. 3138, 82 L. Ed. 2d 317 (1984). An investigative detention is a seizure. Francis v. State, 922 S.W.2d 176, 178 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996). Therefore, a traffic stop must be reasonable under the United States and Texas Constitutions. See U.S. CONST. amend. IV; TEX. CONST. art. I, 9. The scope of a permissible temporary detention was succinctly set out in Davis v. State, 947 S.W.2d 240, 242-45 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). In Davis, the Court reiterated the well-recognized rule that an investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop, and the investigative methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably available to verify or dispel the officer's suspicion in a short period of time. Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 244-45. To determine the reasonableness of an investigative detention under the Fourth Amendment, we apply the guidelines set out by the United States Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio: (1) whether the officer's action was justified at its inception; (2) whether it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the interference initially. See Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 242 (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19-20, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968)). Under the first guideline, an officer's reasonable suspicion justifies an investigative detention. See Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 242-43 (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 27). Specifically, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that some activity out of the ordinary is occurring or has occurred, some suggestion to connect the detainee with the unusual activity, and some indication the unusual activity is related to crime. See Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 244 (citing Garza v. State, 771 S.W.2d 549, 558 (Tex. Crim. App. 1989)). To determine whether an officer was reasonable in his initial action, we ask whether, in light of the officer's experience and knowledge, there existed specific articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warranted that intrusion. See Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 242. We give due weight, not to the officer's inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or "hunch," but to the specific reasonable inferences he is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his experience. See Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 243 n.3. In addition, we determine reasonableness based on the totality of the circumstances. Woods v. State, 956 S.W.2d 33, 38 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). Under the second guideline, an investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop. See Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 103 S. Ct. 1319, 75 L. Ed. 2d 229 (1983). This is because a search that is reasonable at its inception may violate the Fourth Amendment by virtue of its excessive intensity and scope. See Davis, 947 S.W.2d at 243. It follows that once the reason for the stop has been satisfied, the stop may not be used as a fishing expedition for unrelated criminal activity. See Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 117 S. Ct. 417, 136 L. Ed. 2d 347 (1996). Also the scope of the seizure must be restricted to that necessary to fulfill the seizure's purpose. Royer, 460 U.S. at 500. Where officers are awaiting a computer check, questioning about matters unrelated to the initial traffic stop does not violate the Fourth Amendment because such questioning does not extend the duration of an initial valid seizure. United States v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 687, 105 S. Ct. 1568, 84 L. Ed. 2d 605 (1985); United States v. Shabazz, 993 F.2d 431, 437 (5th Cir. 1993). In some circumstances, however, extensive questioning about unrelated matters may exceed the scope of the initial stop. United States v. Kelley, 981 F.2d 1464, 1470 (5th Cir. 1993). An officer may lawfully stop a motorist who commits a traffic violation. McVickers v. State, 874 S.W.2d 662, 664 (Tex. Crim. App. 1993); Armitage v. State, 637 S.W.2d 936, 939 (Tex. Crim. App. 1982). The officer may also detain a person who commits a traffic violation. Garcia v. State, 827 S.W.2d 937, 944 (Tex. Crim. App. 1992). Further, to justify a traffic stop it is not necessary to show that the driver actually violated a traffic regulation. It is sufficient to show that the officer reasonably believed that a violation was in progress. See Drago v. State, 553 S.W.2d 375, 377-78 (Tex. Crim. App. 1977); Edgar v. Plummer, 845 S.W.2d 452 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 1993, no writ); Valencia v. State, 820 S.W.2d 397 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1991, pet. ref'd).