OK: Officer could approach parked motorist on closed business parking lot after hours for welfare check

Defendant was standing next to his motorcycle on a closed business parking lot, across the street from a casino, in the early morning hours. The officer approached him to inquire. Defendant said he was “taking a break.” The officer asked to see his paperwork, and the insurance had expired. Under Oklahoma law, impoundment and inventory of the motorcycle was permitted. But first: a dog sniff. All this was reasonable. [The opinion talks about “asked” for the DL. Maybe if defendant had said no? He wasn’t driving, and his “welfare” was fine.] State v. Feeken, 2016 OK CR 6, 2016 Okla. Crim. App. LEXIS 6 (March 17, 2016):

[*P5] Police are tasked with assisting those who may be in need of help as well as investigating crimes. Every police-citizen encounter has the potential to unfold in any number of ways. Activity is “suspicious,” and worthy of an officer’s attention, when it is out of the ordinary; it need not be patently criminal, just unusual. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and corresponding provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution, protect against “unreasonable” searches and seizures of citizens and their property. We evaluate the reasonableness of encounters such as the one before us under the principles found in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19-20, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1879, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968): Whether the officer’s initial encounter was justified at its inception, and whether his subsequent actions were “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.” McGaughey v. State, 2001 OK CR 33, P 24, 37 P.3d 130, 136 (quoting Terry).

[*P6] There is nothing unreasonable about police approaching citizens in a public place (particularly if they might reasonably appear to be in need of assistance), or to request basic information from motorists to ensure that they, and their vehicles, comply with the rules of the road. Such encounters only become unreasonable when police detain motorists longer than should be necessary to complete such inquiries. If, during such routine encounters, the officer develops reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the encounter may be extended as necessary (in other words, without unreasonable delay) to confirm or dispel that suspicion through lawful means. State v. Paul, 2003 OK CR 1, P 3, 62 P.3d 389, 390.

[*P7] From the conditions in which he first observed Appellee, it appears to this Court that Deputy Ferguson had the right, if not the responsibility, to check on Appellee’s welfare. See Coffia, 2008 OK CR 24, P 13, 191 P.3d at 598. As one could reasonably conclude, from the circumstances, that Appellee had been traveling on the motorcycle, Ferguson could reasonably ask to see his driver’s license and vehicle information. Once he learned that the motorcycle was not legally drivable on public roads in Oklahoma, Ferguson was authorized by law to arrest Appellee, impound the vehicle, or both. 47 O.S.Supp.2014, § 7-606.

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