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Search & Seizure – Traffic Stop – Exit Order

A police officer did not exceed his lawful authority when he obtained permission from defendant to search his vehicle after making a lawful traffic stop, and it was not necessary to suppress the four bags of crack cocaine that fell from defendant’s pants as he exited the vehicle, the Court of Appeals says.

The evidence suggests that defendant stepped out of the vehicle on his own accord after agreeing to the search – not that the officer first ordered defendant to exit the vehicle and then asked for consent to search. But it does not matter either way. Even if the officer had required defendant to step out of the vehicle prior to the search, such compulsion does not offend the Fourth Amendment. And the officer needed no reasonable suspicion of criminality to search either defendant or his vehicle.

Underlying defendant’s argument appears to be the common, but erroneous, assumption that officers cannot ask questions unrelated to the traffic stop – including asking for consent to search.

Denial of suppression motion and cocaine conviction affirmed.

Graves v. Commonwealth (Kelsey, J.) No. 1754-09-1, July 13, 2010; Norfolk Cir.Ct. (Thomas) B. Thomas Reed for appellant; Rosemary V. Bourne, AAG, for appellee. VLW 010-7-265(UP), 4 pp.

VLW 010-7-265

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