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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Around 4 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2005, Officer Wade Okland of the Conroe Police Department while on patrol saw an unfamiliar truck parked at the dead end of the 300 block of South Pacific. After checking the truck’s registration, Okland determined that the address of the registered owner of the truck did not match the address on South Pacific where the truck was parked. Okland then saw two people moving inside the truck and noticed that the interior light was on. Okland directed his spotlight at the truck, initiated his patrol car’s camera and pulled up behind the truck. As Okland approached the truck, Candelario Garcia-Cantu and his passenger got out of the truck. Okland did not turn on his emergency overhead lights, draw his weapon or order the occupants to exit the truck. After Okland began talking with Candelario Garcia-Cantu, Officer Raymond McCreary arrived at the scene. McCreary arrived in response to Okland’s report of the suspicious parked truck. McCreary stated at the trial that Okland did not activate his emergency overhead lights and that Okland did not draw his weapon. Okland and McCreary testified that the truck was parked in an area known for drug trafficking and prostitution. When requested by the trial court, the state presented no statistical data to further support this testimony. Authorities charged Garcia-Cantu by complaint and information with marijuana possession and unlawfully carrying a weapon. Garcia-Cantu filed a motion to suppress in both causes. After a hearing on April 19, 2006, the trial court granted Garcia-Cantu’s motions to suppress. Garcia-Cantu testified at the suppression hearing. He stated that Okland’s spotlight was on but agreed that Okland’s emergency lights were not. Garcia-Cantu also agreed that he voluntarily exited his truck. Additionally, Garcia-Cantu testified that Okland did not draw a weapon or shout at him while approaching his truck. Nonetheless, Garcia-Cantu contended that because of the spotlight, he felt that he was not able to leave the scene. The trial court did not file findings of fact and conclusions of law. Taken as a whole, the record reveals the trial court required that Okland articulate a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to justify his approach to Garcia-Cantu’s truck and that Okland’s use of the spotlight was sufficient to amount to a detention. The state appeals from the trial court’s grant of Candelario Garcia-Cantu’s motions to suppress. In a single point of error, the state contended that the trial court erred by requiring the state to show that the police had reasonable suspicion before they approached Garcia-Cantu’s parked vehicle. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. Federal and state law, the court stated, provide that a police officer may approach a citizen in a public place or knock on a door to ask questions or seek consent to search. The officer need not have reasonable suspicion to do so as long as the officer does not indicate that compliance is required. Such an encounter, the court stated, is a consensual interaction, which the citizen is free to terminate at any time. Therefore, the court stated, an encounter is not considered a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes and does not warrant constitutional analysis. Because Garcia-Cantu parked on a public street, the court found that Okland could approach Garcia-Cantu without requiring any proof of reasonable suspicion to do so. In a similar case, the court noted, the CCA stated that the “mere approach of the police officer to the [vehicle] interfered with no one’s freedom of movement and caused minimal inconvenience and loss of time.” The court also noted the 2004 Idaho Supreme Court case State v. Baker, which stated: “Spotlights have the purpose of illuminating an area, enabling the officer to gain more information about the nature of the vehicle, its occupants, and the circumstances that the officer is confronting. The spotlight can significantly enhance officer safety. . . [A]n officer is not constitutionally required to choose between a consensual encounter in the dark or turning on a spotlight and thereby effectuating a detention that may not be supported by reasonable suspicion. A rule that an officer’s use of a spotlight creates a per se detention would discourage officers from using such lights when necessary for their safety or the safety of others.” Thus, the court found that the facts showed that an encounter, not a detention, occurred. Therefore, the court found that the trial court abused its discretion in requiring Okland to articulate a reasonable suspicion before approaching Garcia-Cantu’s parked truck. In addition, the court also found that the trial court abused its discretion in determining under these circumstances that spotlighting Garcia-Cantu’s truck resulted in Garcia-Cantu’s detention. OPINION:Horton, J.; Gaultney, Kreger and Horton, J.J.

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