The officer testified that he became suspicious that the driver was impaired based on the following combined factors: the time of night (namely, “the early morning hours[,] right around bar time”), the extreme slowing at the first unmarked intersection, and the complete stop at the second unmarked intersection. On that basis, the officer decided to make a traffic stop to investigate further.
The appeals court herein found the stop legal. In rejecting the argument that the stop was unlawful since the driver had done nothing wrong, the court stated:
"These arguments ignore the rule that “police officers are not required to rule out the possibility of innocent behavior before initiating a brief stop.” (citation) “[S]uspicious conduct by its very nature is ambiguous, and the [principal] function of the investigative stop is to quickly resolve that ambiguity.” Id. “Therefore, if any reasonable inference of wrongful conduct can be objectively discerned, notwithstanding the existence of other innocent inferences that could be drawn, the officers have the right to temporarily detain the individual for the purpose of inquiry.” Id. In other words, a Terry stop allows police to obtain more information, through temporary “seizure,” regarding potential alternative innocent explanations for suspicious behavior; the potential for discovery of innocent explanations does not foreclose the stop. It is often going to be the case that aberrant driving behavior could have resulted from one or more causes that do not represent a violation of any statute or ordinance. However, where a reasonable suspicion arises from a pattern of aberrant driving, such as that exhibited by Burch under these circumstances, police are permitted to infringe on the right of the driver to be free of stops and temporary detentions so that police can attempt to resolve the ambiguity by detaining the driver for that limited purpose in a limited manner."
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