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Prior Convictions For Narcotics Can Be Used As A Factor To Establish Reasonable Suspicion To Engage In Further Questioning

The Fourteenth District Court of Appeals at Houston recently handed down an opinion that provides an interesting twist in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. The case is Kelly v. State, 331 S.W.3d 541 (Tex. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 2011). In this case, the police officer stopped the defendant because he did not have a front license plate. The court stated that there were several factors that allowed the officer to expand the scope of the stop to asking about narcotics.

The court stated that the defendant's furtive movements inside the vehicle and nervousness the defendant displayed after being stopped. In addition, the police officer learned that the defendant had a criminal background that involved narcotics. Coupled together, this allowed the officer to reasonably ask the defendant if he possessed narcotics. The interesting issue is that the defendant's past unrelated behavior/bad acts to the traffic stop, will now help to establish present reasonable suspicion. Thus, the officer was justified in expanding the scope of the traffic stop--that is, the stop transformed from a routine traffic stop to a narcotics investigation

Search and seizure issues are one of the most heavily litigated areas in criminal defense practice. The law related to a traffic stop, which is a detention under the Fourth Amendment, could fill a large library. It is important, in every criminal case, that your attorney be experienced with Fourth Amendment litigation. Contact a Plano criminal defense attorney today.