Daniel v. State, No. S03G1172.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtHUNSTEIN, Justice.
PartiesDANIEL v. The STATE.
Decision Date24 May 2004
Docket NumberNo. S03G1172.

597 S.E.2d 116
277 Ga. 840

DANIEL
v.
The STATE

No. S03G1172.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

May 24, 2004.


597 S.E.2d 119
Lloyd J. Matthews, McDonough, for appellant

Tommy K. Floyd, Dist. Atty., James L. Wright, III, Asst. Dist. Atty., for appellee.

HUNSTEIN, Justice.

James Henry Daniel was convicted of trafficking in cocaine based on evidence found pursuant to a consent search of the vehicle Daniel was driving after he was stopped for a routine traffic offense. On appeal Daniel did not contest the legality of the initial traffic stop but instead argued that the officer improperly expanded the scope of the stop and that Daniel's consent to search was the coerced result of an illegal seizure. Relying upon State v. Sims, 248 Ga.App. 277, 546 S.E.2d 47 (2001), the Court of Appeals rejected Daniel's arguments. Daniel v. State, 260 Ga.App. 732, 580 S.E.2d 682 (2003). We granted certiorari to address whether, in light of Padron v. State, 254 Ga.App. 265, 562 S.E.2d 244 (2002) and State v. Hanson, 243 Ga.App. 532, 532 S.E.2d 715 (2000), the Court of Appeals correctly upheld the denial of Daniel's motion to suppress.

[277 Ga. 841] 1. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, including seizures that involve only a brief detention. United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 551, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980). "Temporary detention of individuals during the stop of an automobile by the police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose, constitutes a `seizure' of `persons' within the meaning of [the Fourth Amendment]." Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-810, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996). An investigative detention usually must "last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop," and the "scope of the detention must be carefully tailored to its underlying justification." Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983) (plurality opinion).

[T]he officer's purpose in an ordinary traffic stop is to enforce the laws of the roadway, and ordinarily to investigate the manner of driving with the intent to issue a citation or warning. Once the purpose of that stop has been fulfilled, the continued detention of the car and the occupants amounts to a second detention. See Royer, [supra,] 460 U.S. at 500, 103 S.Ct. 1319.

Ferris v. Maryland, 355 Md. 356, 735 A.2d 491, 499 (1999). See also Padron v. State, supra, 254 Ga.App. at 268, 562 S.E.2d 244; State v. Hanson, supra, 243 Ga.App. at 540-541, 532 S.E.2d 715.

Once the underlying basis for the initial traffic stop has concluded, it does not automatically follow that any further detention for questioning is unconstitutional.

597 S.E.2d 120
Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has clarified that
[l]engthening the detention for further questioning beyond that related to the initial stop is permissible in two circumstances. First, the officer may detain the driver for questioning unrelated to the initial stop if he has an objectively reasonable and articulable suspicion illegal activity has occurred or is occurring. [Cit.] Second, further questioning unrelated to the initial stop is permissible if the initial detention has become a consensual encounter. [Cit.]

United States v. Hunnicutt, 135 F.3d 1345, 1349 (10th Cir.1998); United States v. Pruitt, 174 F.3d 1215, 1220 (11th Cir.1999). Accord Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 117 S.Ct. 417, 136 L.Ed.2d 347 (1996). Thus, we hold that a law enforcement officer's continued questioning of a vehicle's driver and passengers outside the scope of a valid traffic stop passes muster under the Fourth Amendment either when the officer has a reasonable articulable suspicion of other illegal activity [277 Ga. 842] or when the valid traffic stop has de-escalated into a consensual encounter.

2. Where, as here, law enforcement officers lack a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify further detention beyond the scope of the initial traffic stop, the question becomes whether the traffic stop evolved into a consensual police-citizen encounter not implicating the Fourth Amendment.1 See State v. Sims, supra, 248 Ga.App. at 278, 546 S.E.2d 47. See also Utah v. Hansen, 63 P.3d 650, 660 (Utah 2002).

A consensual encounter has been defined as simply the voluntary cooperation of a private citizen in response to non-coercive questioning by a law enforcement official. Because an individual is free to leave at any time during such an encounter, he is not "seized" within the meaning of the fourth amendment. [Cits.]

Ferris, supra, 735 A.2d at 500, fn. 4.

The test for determining if a particular encounter constitutes a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment is whether" `in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.' [Cit.]" Michigan v. Chesternut, 486 U.S. 567, 573, 108 S.Ct. 1975, 100 L.Ed.2d 565 (1988). "As long as the person to whom questions are put remains free to disregard the questions and walk away, there has been no intrusion upon that person's liberty or privacy as would under the Constitution require some particularized and objective justification." Mendenhall, supra, 446 U.S. at 554, 100 S.Ct. 1870. There is no "litmus-paper test for distinguishing a consensual encounter from a seizure," Royer, supra, 460 U.S. at 506, 103 S.Ct. 1319, and the test is

necessarily imprecise, because it is designed to assess the coercive effect of police conduct, taken as a whole, rather than to focus on particular details of that conduct in isolation. Moreover, what constitutes a restraint on liberty prompting a person to conclude that he is not free to "leave" will vary, not only with the particular police conduct at [277 Ga. 843] issue, but also with the setting in which the conduct occurs.

Chesternut, supra at 574, 108 S.Ct. 1975.

Accordingly, the courts must look to the totality of the circumstances in determining whether a reasonable person would have felt free to leave. Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 437, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 115 L.Ed.2d 389 (1991); State v. Sims, supra, 248 Ga.App. at 278-279, 546 S.E.2d 47. See also Pennsylvania v. Freeman, 563 Pa. 82, 757 A.2d 903 (2000). Courts have identified numerous factors as probative to that assessment. A non-exhaustive list of such factors includes:

597 S.E.2d 121
the existence and nature of any prior seizure; whether there was a clear and expressed endpoint to any such prior detention; the character of police presence and conduct in the encounter under review (for example — the number of officers, whether they were uniformed, whether police isolated subjects, physically touched them or directed their movement, the content or manner of interrogatories or statements, and "excesses" factors stressed by the United States Supreme Court); geographic, temporal and environmental elements associated with the encounter; and the presence or absence of express advice that the citizen-subject was free to decline the request for consent to search. In general, a full examination must be undertaken of all coercive aspects of the police-citizen interaction. [Cit.]

Id. at 906-907. See also Ferris, supra, 735 A.2d at 502; South Carolina v. Williams, 351 S.C. 591, 571 S.E.2d 703, 708 (2002).2

The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that no single factor dictates whether a seizure has occurred. Bostick, supra, 501 U.S. at 437, 111 S.Ct. 2382. Bearing this in mind, we address three of these factors that have been given particular scrutiny by foreign courts that have analyzed this issue.

(a) First, the return of driver's licenses and other legal documents by law enforcement officers to the documents' owners is a well-recognized threshold factor. We agree with those courts that have held that "an encounter initiated by a traffic stop may not be deemed consensual unless the driver's documents have been returned to him. [Cit.]" United States v. Gonzalez-Lerma, 14 F.3d 1479, 1483 (10th. Cir. [277 Ga. 844] 1994).3 See also Faulkner v. State, 256 Ga.App. 129, 567 S.E.2d 754 (2002) (encounter not consensual where questioning began before driver was given his copy of traffic ticket containing citation details).

However, "[a]lthough an officer must return a driver's documentation before a detention can end, the return of the driver's documentation is not always sufficient to demonstrate that an encounter has become consensual. [Cit.]" Colorado v. Cervantes-Arredondo, 17 P.3d 141, 148 (Colo.2001). Accord Ferris, supra, 735 A.2d at 505 ("`[g]iven the fact that (the driver) quite clearly had been seized when his car was pulled over, the return of (his) credentials hardly manifests a change in status when it was immediately followed by interrogation concerning other criminal activity.' [Cit.]").4

597 S.E.2d 122
Accordingly, we emphasize that the return of documents does not conclusively establish that a traffic stop has de-escalated into a consensual encounter

(b) A second significant factor is whether the officer informed the citizen that he or she was free to leave. It is well established that an officer is not required under the Federal Constitution to advise the driver that he is "free to go" after a valid detention before the officer attempts to engage in a consensual interrogation. Robinette, supra, 519 U.S. at 39, 117 S.Ct. 417. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated that such advice was one factor to consider in determining whether consent to search was voluntary. Id. See also Ferris, supra, 735 A.2d at 504 (discussing other courts that "similarly have recognized that the failure by law enforcement to inform a citizen that he or she is free to terminate the encounter is a significant factor suggesting a continued [277 Ga. 845] seizure under the Fourth Amendment").

We emphasize that under the totality of the circumstances analysis, an officer's failure to advise a motorist that he or she is free to leave does...

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44 practice notes
  • State v. Pichardo, No. 4036.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • October 31, 2005
    ...returned the driver's documentation is not always sufficient to demonstrate that an encounter has become consensual. Daniel v. State, 277 Ga. 840, 597 S.E.2d 116 (2004). Thus, the return of documents does not conclusively establish that a traffic stop has de-escalated into a consensual enco......
  • State v. Jenkins, No. 26833.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • November 20, 2007
    ...Flowers, 441 F.3d 900, 903 n. 1(10th Cir.2006); United States v. Hernandez, 93 F.3d 1493, 1498 (10th Cir. 1996); see also Daniel v. State, 277 Ga. 840, 843, 597 S.E.2d 116 (2004). In United States v. Beck, 140 F.3d 1129, 1135 (8th Cir.1998), the court indicated that the defendant was not se......
  • Clay v. State, No. S11A1956.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • April 11, 2012
    ...was in custody, as a reasonable person in Clay's situation would not have believed he was free to leave at that time. See Daniel v. State, 277 Ga. 840, 842(2), 597 S.E.2d 116 (2004) (stating that the test for determining whether a person is seized for Fourth Amendment purposes “is whether ‘......
  • State v. Bibbins, No. A04A1305.
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • December 1, 2004
    ...for consent to search is inaudible on the video tape. Ultimately, Bibbins's answer proved irrelevant based on the law in Daniel v. State, 277 Ga. 840(2)(a), 597 S.E.2d 116 We caution the bench and bar that appeals may not be manufactured by the parties. The trial court should give full cons......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • State v. Pichardo, No. 4036.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • October 31, 2005
    ...returned the driver's documentation is not always sufficient to demonstrate that an encounter has become consensual. Daniel v. State, 277 Ga. 840, 597 S.E.2d 116 (2004). Thus, the return of documents does not conclusively establish that a traffic stop has de-escalated into a consensual enco......
  • State v. Jenkins, No. 26833.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • November 20, 2007
    ...Flowers, 441 F.3d 900, 903 n. 1(10th Cir.2006); United States v. Hernandez, 93 F.3d 1493, 1498 (10th Cir. 1996); see also Daniel v. State, 277 Ga. 840, 843, 597 S.E.2d 116 (2004). In United States v. Beck, 140 F.3d 1129, 1135 (8th Cir.1998), the court indicated that the defendant was not se......
  • Clay v. State, No. S11A1956.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • April 11, 2012
    ...was in custody, as a reasonable person in Clay's situation would not have believed he was free to leave at that time. See Daniel v. State, 277 Ga. 840, 842(2), 597 S.E.2d 116 (2004) (stating that the test for determining whether a person is seized for Fourth Amendment purposes “is whether ‘......
  • State v. Bibbins, No. A04A1305.
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • December 1, 2004
    ...for consent to search is inaudible on the video tape. Ultimately, Bibbins's answer proved irrelevant based on the law in Daniel v. State, 277 Ga. 840(2)(a), 597 S.E.2d 116 We caution the bench and bar that appeals may not be manufactured by the parties. The trial court should give full cons......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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