Home News Oregon Supreme Court to cops: Do not ask about weapons

Oregon Supreme Court to cops: Do not ask about weapons

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Joseph Lucio Jimenez. Image credit: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office
Joseph Lucio Jimenez. Image credit: Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office


Oregon police officers may be getting new training on how to handle possible gun-toting criminals, after a high court ruling in that state in the case of a self-professed gang member, who’s been in and out of jail.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday, that “police aren’t justified in asking people they stop if they have a weapon — if officers are only asking out of general concern for their own safety.”

The high court threw out an unlawful-weapon conviction of a 19-year-old man– who was under suspicion of jaywalking in Portland—and stopped by an Oregon State Police trooper in 2011.

According to the court’s case summary, the trooper asked Joseph Jimenez if he had any weapons on him, and Jimenez said he had a gun. Without being asked, Jimenez put his arms on the hood of the trooper’s car so he could be handcuffed, according to the Oregonian.

Jimenez was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm in May 2011 and sentenced to probation. But the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed Jimenez’s conviction in 2014, and on Thursday the Supreme Court agreed with that finding.

A Portland police spokesman told the Oregonian, “Officers will routinely inquire about weapons if they are talking to someone they believe may be armed or someone that they may be searching or arresting.”

The state argued — in an effort to uphold Jimenez’s conviction — that during traffic stops related to violations by pedestrians or drivers, “officers should always be allowed to ask if people have weapons because such police work is inherently dangerous.”

The Supreme Court ruled that police can ask, during stops, if pedestrians or drivers are armed only if they have a “good, specific reason that leads them to believe they might be in danger.”

In Jimenez’s case, the trooper testified that he considered the neighborhood he was in to be a high-crime area and also noted that Jimenez was wearing clothing he thought might indicate gang affiliation.

Jimenez admitted he was indeed a gang member, but that was after the trooper inquired about weapons, according to the court’s summary of the case.

Jimenez is back in custody, awaiting trial after police say he took part in a gang-related shootout this past May.

Meantime, the city attorney’s office will review Thursday’s high court decision and determine if any new direction or training needs to be given to officers in light of the ruling, according to the Oregonian.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I’m surprised the court didn’t rule that in the case of obvious criminals (Gang tatoos, etc), that you could not ask, but in the case of obviously law abiding citizens, they should be asked and then searched… Seems to be the way things are heading.

  2. So after the rush of murders that take officers lives, they will rescind this order. Just plain DUMB< STUPID people sitting around in robes making these decisions. Replace them all

  3. OK, So someone elected or appointed an idiot to a judgeship. I truly hope this is appealed because simply asking anyone a question is NOT a violation of any law period. In otherwords this is STUPID beyond doubt.

  4. This is one of the dumbest things I have heard in awhile… WTF….. my answer to this, is then treat everyone like they have a weapon when you pull them over. Have them get out of the car, cuff them behind their car then search the car. Sucks for the honest citizens, but maybe if enough people are up in arms about it (no pun intended) then the “policy makers” will not do stupid shit like this!

  5. Cops can ask any question they want, and they do. You do not have to answer. You have the right to refuse to answer!

  6. In order for an action by a peace officer to be lawful, it must not only not violate any other laws but it must also be expressly permitted by law. The 4th Ammendment of the US Constitution prohibits unlawful searches and even though only a verbal question, it is a form of search and was not within the perview of the reason the contact was made with the individual in question.

    Not withstanding this individual is a gang member and not lawfully permitted to possess a firearm, in which case the officer should have waited until that fact was affiirmatively established before inquiring further. He simply got ahead of himself.

    I believe the court in this instance was applying a broader intent as this would apply to the everyday citizen. We all know if you allow the police to to it to one, they will do it to everyone. That my friends includes you and me, and frankly, it’s none of their damn business.

  7. Unless Oregon is different from other states – both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court are comprised of multiple judges – So this decision is a little scarier for the officer on the street! Will anyone in their right mind choose Law Enforcement as a career?

  8. Well this just falls in line with the United States Supreme Court Case Terry Vs Ohio. For their own protection, police may perform a quick surface search of the person’s outer clothing for weapons if they have reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is armed. This reasonable suspicion must be based on “specific and articulable facts” and not merely upon an officer’s hunch. This permitted police action has subsequently been referred to in short as a “stop and frisk,” or simply a “Terry frisk”. The Terry standard was later extended to temporary detentions of persons in vehicles, known as traffic stops; see Terry stop for a summary of subsequent jurisprudence.

    I think if a frequent flyer gang member who is in and out of jail, more than likely for weapons charges, comes into contact with police they can use their past experience with him and his arrest record as “specific and articulable facts”.

  9. The officer is a coward or he is searching for a pretense to justifiably kill some one innocent. Police are to PROTECT us. If he is scared stay home get another job. Scared cops are NOT SAFE. And those that seek a pretense are not safe either. Stop with your racist crap.

    • Ironic that you should say this in a comment about a court decision. In Warren VS District of Columbia, SCOTUS found that LE has no duty to protect.

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