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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In a motion to suppress evidence, Ford asserted that his initial detention for failure to maintain a proper following distance was not supported by reasonable suspicion. The trial court overruled Ford’s motion. The court of appeals held the stop was valid by concluding that the evidence was sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion. HOLDING:Reversed. Ford asserted that the court of appeals erred in holding the evidence presented at the suppression hearing supported the trial court’s finding of reasonable suspicion. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed. The court of appeals stated that “Trooper Peavy testified that he saw [Ford] following another car at a distance that Peavy believed was insufficient and, thus, in violation of the statute.” While this may have been a permissible interpretation of Peavy’s “following too close” testimony, it ddid not change its conclusive character into specific, articulable facts. Attempting to do so requires a strained reading of the record. As indicated from Peavy’s testimony, Peavy only stated that Ford was “following too close.” The record revealed an absence of any facts allowing an appellate court to determine the circumstances upon which Peavy could reasonably conclude that Ford actually was, had been, or soon would have been engaged in criminal activity. Instead, the trial court was presented only with a conclusory statement that Ford was violating a traffic law. Without specific, articulable facts, a court has no means to assess whether this opinion was objectively reasonable. When a trial court is not presented with such facts, the detention cannot be “subjected to the more detached, neutral scrutiny of a judge who must evaluate the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure in light of the particular circumstances.” Additionally, “[w]hen such a stop is not based on objective criteria, the risk of arbitrary and abusive police practices exceeds tolerable limits.” Allowing a police officer’s opinion to suffice in specific facts’ stead eviscerates Terry’s reasonable suspicion protection. The court adhered to the principle that specific, articulable facts are required to provide a basis for finding reasonable suspicion. Mere opinions are ineffective substitutes for specific, articulable facts in a reasonable-suspicion analysis. The court’s opinion further reasoned that the evidence regarding Peavy’s training, experience, and duties enforcing traffic laws qualified him “to make a judgment as to whether, ‘considering the speed of the vehicles, traffic and the conditions of the highway,’ [Ford] was following the car in front of him too closely.” It is true that law enforcement training or experience may factor into a reasonable-suspicion analysis. The U.S. Supreme Court has stated, “objective facts, meaningless to the untrained, can be combined with permissible deductions from such facts to form a legitimate basis for suspicion of a particular person and for action on that suspicion.” But reliance on this special training was insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion absent objective factual support, the court concluded. OPINION:Mike Keasler, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which Meyers, Price, Johnson, Hervey, and Holcomb, JJ., joined. Keller, P.J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Womack and Cochran, JJ., joined.

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