For any officer to make a traffic stop he or she must have reasonable suspicion. But, what is reasonable suspicion? Well, based on the famous case, Terry v. Ohio, the officer must have the belief based on specific articulable facts that criminal activity is afoot. But still, what does reasonable suspicion mean? Just like most law driven answers, “it depends” and “it’s determined on a case by case basis.”
Does an officer have reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop when the vehicle is in the same area of reported gunshots?
In the 5th district court of appeals case, Texas v. Montiel-Contreras, the answer is yes. Here, the defendant, charged with DWI, after being pulled over in the same complex where gunshots were heard. The officer heard gunshots coming from the defendant’s area on top of numerous 911 calls made that night describing hearing shots and seeing a black man with a gun.
Based on the facts of this case, the appeals court found reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop on the defendant. Testimony showed that the officer saw headlights coming from the same area as the gunshots, no other vehicles were around, there were multiple reports of gunshots in that area, and right after the officer heard the gunshots, the defendant and his passenger were the only people leaving the area.
Each case is different and if you find yourself in this situation give us a call, it is possible that your arresting officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you.