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Questioning and temporary confiscation of CCWs during routine traffic stops?

Discussion in 'Legal & Political Archive' started by beararms5000, Jul 14, 2009.

  1. beararms5000

    beararms5000 Seattle Member

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    My girlfriend and I recently started out on a trip from Seattle to the greater Portland area, leaving around 2am. After stopping at a convenience store on a well lit street we got back on the road and I momentarily failed to turn my lights back on and was briefly stopped by a Seattle PD officer who reminded me of this and performed what I assume was a warrant check before leaving us to our road trip without writing anything up. I mention this encounter only because my girlfriend (a musician with extremely good hearing) overheard on the officer's radio that they were looking for a car of the same make and color as my own with a bunch of 9mm guns and/or ammunition. She did not mention this to me at the time or I might have driven the 5 minutes back home and switched us to her car.

    An hour or so into our trip we were headed down the freeway at the speed of traffic and were stopped by a Highway Patrol officer who accused us of being at last 20 mph over the speed limit (which I am positive was not the case; he used pacing and never fully matched speed, leading me to think this was a faulty rough estimate or just a verbal excuse for stopping us to see if we were the car they were looking for).

    Here's where it gets interesting: After glancing at license and registration he asked "you don't have any knives or guns in the car do you?" We were somewhat unnerved at the question but I replied that we did have guns and my girlfriend replied that we had concealed carry permits. He seemed slightly surprised and asked where the guns were and we indicated my pocket and her purse. At this point he stated (politely, I believe) "I'd like to be the only one at this traffic stop with a weapon" and asked us to hand him our guns, butts first. I unloaded my 1911 and handed it to him and my girlfriend (who had been nearly asleep before this stop) simply handed over her double-action revolver still loaded. He didn't seem to prefer either state and didn't appear to check the guns closely himself. He also asked for and briefly examined our CPLs. He made some friendly small talk about having the same revolver as my girlfriend and very briefly disappeared to his car to perform what I assume was another warrant check. I didn't think he had time to note or lookup the guns' serial numbers, although I have no real knowledge of how long such things take. He returned, verbally reminded us to watch our speed and handed back the firearms, butts first and drove off.

    I was disturbed by the questioning about and confiscation (however temporary) of our firearms on several levels but didn't think the side of the road and the middle of the night was the best place to inquire about such things. It might be worth noting that he looked like a 20-something officer, while the Seattle PD officer was in his 40's. Is this perhaps a newer thing being taught in some police academies now?

    My primary objections to this process were:

    Safety: The officer asked tired people in the middle of the night to handle firearms in an enclosed space where muzzle control was almost impossible. The muzzle of my girlfriend's loaded revolver passed over her feet, my knees, her thighs and (when he later returned it), the officer’s own abdomen. My own gun (which I unloaded but which he couldn't have been sure of as I neglected to lock the slide open and he did not rack it in my presence) also passed over his abdomen and my girlfriend's thighs as it was returned to me. The potential for a lethal accidental discharge was astounding.

    Logic: If we were really the criminal masterminds with a load of 9mm whatever, wouldn't we have just answered "no?" Or shot him as he approached? Or simply turned over one or some weapons while retaining others? He was remarkably vulnerable at the moment he was cradling our 2 handguns and a flashlight in his hands. It might even be worth noting that I did fail to disclose my pocket knife (I didn't lie but I imagine it's a half truth to mention the guns and not the knife) and he never become aware of this. I had my reasons: the knife's safety mechanism is broken and the thought of passing it across my girlfriend's lap for inspection was untenable.

    Legality: Does an officer purporting to be on a routine traffic stop have any right to ask us if we are carrying firearms? Are we legally required to answer or be truthful if it has nothing to do with the matter under discussion (traffic safety)? Does an officer have the right to ask us to surrender our concealed firearms for no cause other than that he would feel better being the only armed person in the immediate vicinity? What, if anything, were his legitimate recourses if we had refused to show or hand over the weapons?

    Can anyone please shed some light on this? My girlfriend and I were quite disturbed by this encounter and are not sure what was or wasn't appropriate about this traffic stop. To be clear, he was friendly, polite and certainly didn’t appear to be just trying to make his quota as he didn't write anything up. I’m just left with a bad feeling if any officer can challenge a CPL holder to disclose and surrender firearms at will.
     
  2. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    If the Police are looking for a vehicle, and have reasonable suspicion that crime may be afoot, they can stop it and check things.

    As for the Officers doing things differently because of their age...it has more to do with the academy they attend. The State Patrol have their own academy, while City and County Officers attend their own academy.
    I can say for the City/County side of things, they do not teach having the owner unload the firearms.

    Now my thoughts on your points; sorry if I come across a bit harsh, am not meaning to be...

    Safety - I will disagree with on this part. If you are tired, maybe you shouldn't be driving. Muzzle control, and general manipulation can be done very safely in confined areas, just need some practice.

    The only odd thing, is having you and her unload them. If you have them in your hands and are manipulating them, its easier at that point to take the officer out, should one be wanting to do that. It must be a State Patrol thing!

    Logic - You're spot on with your thoughts here. Not much of what he did, makes sense to me.

    Legality - Yes, they have the right to ask if you have any weapons. You have a WA State law that rquires you to answer truthfully. RCW 9A.76.175, its title is making False Statement, but does apply to questioning as well.

    As for surrendering the firearms, my thought is no...but then I'm a firearms guy and respect the firearms rights of others.
    They can ask, and if you say yes, they can ask more questions as to what, meaning long gun etc., where they are, and what loaded or secured state they are in. If you mention you have a pistol, they may ask for a CCW. If you produce one, then that should pretty much end the conversation, except that of long guns. They can make a check to see if they are unloaded, as a CCW doesn't cover loaded long guns.

    He doesn't have a recourse if you don't have them over, unless he has reasonable suspicion that crime is afoot as cited in the court case of Terry vs Ohio. So basically, if you say no..they have to accept that.

    If anyone runs a subject in Or or Wa on a traffic stop, if you have CPL...it will sometimes come back with the return of your driving status and wants check.

    Hope this helps.
     
    Riot likes this.
  3. Weebs

    Weebs Clackamas County Member

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    Interesting... I don't know the legality of an officer asking you to surrender your weapon. I would guess he's within his jurisdiction to do so. During my CPL class I was informed that you do not have to disclose possession of a firearm to an officer during a stop. Consequently if you wouldn't have answered his question (and in essence not declared having a firearm) I would see no reason why you would have any liability for not surrendering. I'm not versed in law so I could be 100% wrong here.

    I however would likely do everything in my power to make the officer's experience as easy as possible. I've always thought that making their job as easy as possible is the best way to avoid a ticket.

    I'd really like to see other people's takes on this.
     
  4. CaughtSteelin

    CaughtSteelin Oregon Member

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    I also do not know the legality on this matter. But if I was the LEO and stopped someone with legal carry rights who were armed. I would think about my safety defiantly. If I was alone, had no back-up, or back-up was a ways away, no radio contact, etc. I would probably disarm them also. For my safety and theirs.

    Whats so bad about being disarmed? It's not like he didn't return them? If your feeling weary about giving your gun(s) to an LEO, then maybe you have something to hide...

    Like for instance I fishing this past spring. CG pulled up to my boat ask if I had any weapons on board. I said yes, a .357. They asked for me to unload and hand them the gun. I did and after the safety check I was returned the gun. It's all about safety and if I was them I would do the same thing.

    Another thing...If you did say no to not having any firearms. And they did find firearms on you. Well then your in deeper sht then you would have been if you just told them the truth.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2009
  5. Stomper

    Stomper Oceania Rising White Is The New Brown Silver Supporter

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    If they don't ask, then don't tell. If they DO ask, then answer truthfully, and comply with any directives you are given. If you resist, you may get physically hurt and have charges brought up against you... which will cost LOTS of money to defend against. If they are in the wrong when you comply and you are within the legal bounds of your CHL/CPL you will have legal recourse and can file a lawsuit that you will most likely win IF you DO NOT give them ANY legal toe-hold that you were out of line in any way, shape, or form.

    You handled the situation properly IMHO and everyone got to go home and on their merry way afterwards. One thing to keep in mind... time and time again we ALWAYS hear or say that we want the police to DO SOMETHING about crime and get the bad guys... the bad guys don't wear "I'm a bad guy" sign, they've gotten more sophistcated, and tend to blend in with the "average Joe", for obvious reasons... so they don't get caught!

    No particular cop knows any of you/us from Adam... they HAVE to have the posture of, "I suspect EVERYONE, yet accuse no one". I have seen it time and again, a citizen crowing about how the cops should be doing more to prevent crime and catch the bad guys, then they scream the loudest when they become part of the "process" in filtering through daily contacts... I'm not even REMOTELY saying you are doing this, you did the correct thing... you ASSISTED that Trooper in getting his job done, nothing more, nothing less... you did your duty as a responsible citizen! :thumbup:
     
  6. Keane

    Keane Hillsboro, OR Active Member

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    Ok, even if he DID have the legal prerogative to take the firearms, it was EPICALLY stupid. Consider this:
    1- He's trusting you with telling him which weapons you have on you. This could easily be a lie. So, he trusts that you are telling the truth here, but not that you won't shoot him

    2- If instead, he had just said not to touch them, he would take the action of reaching for it as an aggressive act, and use that as good reason to either draw, or unclip his holster. In this case, he asked you two (*TWO!!!! meaning two guns being handled, so he couldn't keep track of both) to unholster and hand over.

    In this case, because you were following an order, he wouldn't have a mental-reason to go for his weapon. The time to draw & shoot him is a lot greater than the time to turn the gun from butt first to barrel first and shoot.

    3- He didn't check the condition of the weapons. I would hope that any academy has the 4 rules engrained into each officer including the whole "make sure a weapon is unloaded when handed to you".

    4- He is opening himself up to liability by handling the firearms. By not checking if they were loaded, and having them in his hands, he is potentially handling a malfunctioning firearm. What sort of crap would he have gotten into if he either negligently/accidentally caused the hammer to fall on that revolver? I'm sure police officers don't do very well getting out of trouble in front of IA after shooting someone unarmed.
     
  7. Stomper

    Stomper Oceania Rising White Is The New Brown Silver Supporter

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    Agreed, but during a traffic stop in the field or some other "intense" contact situation with a LEO is NOT the place to debate your rights, the limits of his/her authority, and your rights under the law. The ENTIRE onus was on that trooper IF anything HAD gone bad or IF he went off on a tangent resulting in them being aprehended for something inappropriate.
     
  8. el gringo loco

    el gringo loco PDX Member

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    I don't like a lot of things about how the trooper handled this (from a tactical perspective), but I think he was within his rights.

    This was a WA thing, but I did feel the need to address Weebs comment because I noticed he is from Clackamas.

    In Oregon, a Concealed Carry Holder can be required to temporarily surrender his or her weapon for inspection by a law enforcement officer.
     
  9. KENOC

    KENOC Portland area Member

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    I am sorry but this officer sounds like an idiot. Common sense tells me if i am an LEO standing outside your car, I am much safer if you keep your hands where i can see them and answer my questions than if i ask you to take out and hand me your weapons. I want your hands in sight and OFF your weapons. Training or not..that is common frakkin' sense...Dumb & stupid.
     
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  10. MarkSBG

    MarkSBG Beaverton Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Didn't know that. Do you know where I can find a reference to this? Is it in the ORS or somewhere else maybe?
     
  11. swoop

    swoop Milwaukie, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    +1 don't know if I would call him an idiot, but a boot officer with alot to learn? Yes...and how many times does a cop give you a warning for 20 mph over the posted speed limit....hummmmm?
     
  12. coloneltim

    coloneltim Korvallistan Member

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    Where did you get your info?

    I don't recall anything such as this in the ORS.

    Tim
     
  13. el gringo loco

    el gringo loco PDX Member

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    I was probably not as precise as I should have been. This does not apply to this exact situation, but here is an ORS that gives limited authority:

    166.380 Examination of firearm by peace officer; arrest for failure to allow examination. (1) A peace officer may examine a firearm possessed by anyone on the person while in or on a public building to determine whether the firearm is a loaded firearm.
    (2) Refusal by a person to allow the examination authorized by subsection (1) of this section constitutes reason to believe that the person has committed a crime and the peace officer may make an arrest pursuant to ORS 133.310. [1969 c.705 §3]

    “Public building” means a hospital, a capitol building, a public or private school, as defined in ORS 339.315, a college or university, a city hall or the residence of any state official elected by the state at large, and the grounds adjacent to each such building. The term also includes that portion of any other building occupied by an agency of the state or a municipal corporation, as defined in ORS 297.405, other than a court facility.


    Also, a police officer is authorized under ORS 131.625 to take control of a weapon during a stop. I don't have the exact case law handy, but there is long-standing Federal and OR State case law that allow for an officer to take what is, in the officer's mind, reasonable steps to ensure officer safety during a stop. An officer would be well within his/her rights to take custody of the weapons during the course of the stop.

    ORS 131.265 allows for an external pat-down for weapons, but also creates a rather easily met criteria for a police officer to take temporary custody of a legally carried weapon during a stop:

    131.625 Frisk of stopped persons. (1) A peace officer may frisk a stopped person for dangerous or deadly weapons if the officer reasonably suspects that the person is armed and dangerous to the officer or other persons present.
    (2) If, in the course of the frisk, the peace officer feels an object which the peace officer reasonably suspects is a dangerous or deadly weapon, the peace officer may take such action as is reasonably necessary to take possession of the weapon. [1973 c.836 §32; 1997 c.866 §3]


    Obviously, when one admits they have a weapon, the officer has met the "reasonably suspects" criteria.

    Again, I think the trooper handled the situation stupidly (from a safety perspective), but I for one would gladly cooperate. The trooper doesn't know me and if, by allowing him to control my weapon during the stop, he can conduct the stop more comfortably (in other words, more quickly), I'll play along.
     
  14. MarkSBG

    MarkSBG Beaverton Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the ORS quotes...
     
  15. Keane

    Keane Hillsboro, OR Active Member

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    excellent post el gringo loco.
     
  16. coloneltim

    coloneltim Korvallistan Member

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    The first one does not apply at all to a traffic stop and the second one probably does not either. The officer would have to meet the "armed and dangerous to the officer or other persons present" part of the ORS to make it work. If you are a licensed chl holder then he would have a difficult time articulating that you were "armed and dangerous".

    Laws are funny things. I learned that a long time ago. In Oregon, "physical injury" and "serious physical injury" are definitions used in assault levels. I figured serious physical injury was something like a broken bone or having your head beat in. As it was explained to me, the definition was something like "likely to cause death" or something like that. They are not always as they seem.

    TS
     
  17. JAFO

    JAFO OR, USA Silver Supporter Silver Supporter

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    I wouldn't say the officer has met the "reasonably suspects" criteria based on a concealed handgun license holder admitting he was armed when asked. Please do show some case law though if you believe some exists where the person stopped showed no behavior that would indicate to the officer that he was dangerous. If it was "reasonable" to suspect that every person with a gun was dangerous then it would be a much more interesting game all around.
     
  18. tionico

    tionico Thurston County Well-Known Member

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    While not exhaustive, I just read through the entire Washington pamphlet "Firearms Safety and You", issued when I got the CPL. It clearly states I have to surrender for examination my CPL whenever asked by LEO. But nothing about surrendering any arms possessed by me, long or short, concealed or otherwise. No time just now to search further.... but the pamphlet detailing pertinent laws relating to arms does not mention this at all.

    Personally, I agree, the State Patrol guy was rather careless... though I am certain he thought he was not. I think I would at least have asked, before surrendering them, whether he would be returning them when we were done..... just to put him on notice I expect them back. I also think I would have asked him to come round to my side the car to take possession of mine... rather than pass them both across to the side where he was.


    I'd also agree that he was putting you on when he claimed to have you at twenty over the limit. In Washington, that is grounds for "negligent driving", and they all LOVE to write that one, as it is BIG bucks and nice gold star on their tally sheet.

    Sounds like a freshly minted newbie trying to do the best he can..... perhaps also a bit full of himself into the bargain. Oh well... likely, as pointed out, he was keeping an eye peeled for the wanted car with the perps and their "tools".
     
  19. Buddhalux

    Buddhalux Hillsboro, Oregon Active Member

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    Examination is one thing, taking possession of someone's fire arm is something completely different. After the LEO examined the firearm it should of been returned to the owners.
     
  20. Redrum

    Redrum Portlandia Active Member

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    In Oregon CCWs are handed out like candy..its a "shall issue" state..which is not nessesairly a bad thing..however, I have personaly arrested people with valid CCWs for outstanding warrants, for having dope on them with their gun, for driving suspended and for domestic violence..just to name a few off the top of my head...its not uncommon for gangs in the PDX area to have one member who has a clean record, get a CCW..then he carries a "legal" gun while hes with all his criminal friends doin criminal stuff...until he does something to get the CCW revoked.

    I do not know you from Adam when I pull you over on a traffic stop...your CCW on face value alone is not a "Im a good guy" stamp...its a good start..but it doesnt stand alone.

    would you want to take the chance, walk back up to a car and a hand a ticket to someone you've never met, that you know has a gun on his hip? neither would I..what if you guys were the car in question they were looking for? he most likely went back to his car to confirm you weren't.

    securing your firearms is a safety thing...its no different than taking the keys out of the ignition..they weren't confiscated...you got them back at the end of the stop.

    as far as the gun handling part...becoming a LEO doesnt make you a gun guru and it sounds like a few errors were made..but thats why there are 4 cardinal rules of firearm safety..so you have to make 4 mistakes all at once for someone to get hurt

    when I take a gun off a person..I dont unload it as soon as I get it...I secure it...I make sure the person I get it from is not a threat..then I unload it/make it safe...you cant do 2 things at once..divided attention is what gets people killed in police work....If Im farting around with your gun..Im not paying attention to you

    it sounds like the LEO was not comfortable allowing you to keep your guns on your person..was trying to be polite about it... and that caused some logistical/safety problems in securing the firearms...once he determined you were not "bad guys" or the car they were looking for.. he returned your weapons and gave you a verbal warning to slow down. your CCW along with being polite and cooperative prob went along way towards that.