New traffic law change impacts Oregon drivers and drug cases

Drivers rights have changed when it comes to traffic stops and their interactions with law enforcement officers.

Posted: Dec 11, 2019 6:52 PM
Updated: Dec 12, 2019 2:33 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Law enforcement officers are now limited to what they can talk about with a driver during a traffic stop due to a recent decision in the Oregon Supreme Court.

Sheriff Nathan Sickler from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office is not happy about this change. He says it's a poor ruling as far as law enforcement goes for traffic stops. 

If someone gets pulled over for speeding, an officer can no longer ask things like "where are you heading," "how are you doing" — and the tougher questions, like "do you have weapons or drugs in the car." These questions usually happen while someone is getting out their insurance card or when the officer is waiting for verification on a license. 

"The 'unavoidable lull' is something law enforcement has been operating on. It has been good law. It's been reinforced," said Johan Pietila. He is a Deputy District Attorney with the DA's Office. One of his cases, a conviction for meth trafficking, just got dropped on Tuesday because of the new precedent.

"It was a little over 4 pounds of meth discovered in a vehicle," said Pietila. The suspect won't have anything on his record and it will be like it never happened.

"I think it's about time," said Jen Zammetti. She is an Associate Attorney and is happy about the change. "It allowed police officers who stopped you for speeding to ask you about virtually anything."

"Just things that I think judges who sit in offices and make rulings not based on the reality of what is going on out there. It's difficult for us to adapt to, but we will," said Sheriff Sickler. He says this will now limit his deputies. "We deal with poor court decisions often and you know the deputies are resilient. We will figure a way to do our job and try to keep the public safe." 

Sheriff Sickler says these new changes have already been implemented in Jackson County. It's not something the Sheriff's Office agrees with, but he says they have to follow the laws just like everyone else.

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