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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:State Trooper James Thomas pulled Mike James Shelhammer’s tractor-trailer truck over, because Shelhammer followed too close behind another vehicle. After talking with Shelhammer and reviewing Shelhammer’s logbook, Thomas ran a check of Shelhammer’s driver’s license to make sure it was valid and allowed Shelhammer to operate the tractor-trailer truck. While waiting for the license return, Thomas, because of Shelhammer’s unusual conduct during the stop, asked Shelhammer if he could search his truck, to which Shelhammer replied “go right ahead.” Thomas then called for back up to assist in the search of Shelhammer’s vehicle. When the backup officer arrived, Thomas searched the truck and found marijuana in several places inside the truck. Soon after Thomas placed Shelhammer under arrest, Shelhammer admitted to smoking the marijuana. A jury convicted Shelhammer of possession of marijuana. Shelhammer appealed on the grounds that the trial court erred by denying his: motion to suppress; requests for jury charge instructions on the law of “following too close” and on whether evidence was illegally obtained; and motion to appoint a judge who is a licensed attorney to preside over the trial. HOLDING:Affirmed. First, Shelhammer contended that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure, because the traffic stop was unreasonable in time and scope. A law enforcement officer, the court stated, may lawfully stop a motorist who commits a traffic violation in the officer’s presence. The decision to stop an automobile is reasonable when an officer has probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. A traffic stop is a temporary detention and must be reasonable, the court stated. To be reasonable, a traffic stop must last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop and employ the least intrusive investigative methods reasonably available to verify or dispel the officer’s suspicion in a short period of time. During a traffic stop, the court stated, police officers may request information from a driver, such as a driver’s license and car registration, and may conduct a computer check for that information as well as a check for warrants. Generally, a traffic stop is not fully resolved until after the computer check of the driver’s information is complete. The court stated, however, that an officer’s actions can become unreasonable if a license check unduly prolongs the detention. A driver’s voluntary consent to search his or her vehicle, the court stated, is effective to legalize the search if it is given within the scope of a reasonable traffic stop. If such a search reveals drugs in the vehicle, the officers may arrest the driver. Although Shelhammer contended that the detention took 35 minutes, the court found that his brief did not indicate whether that period included the time spent searching the truck or, more importantly, at what point during that period Thomas asked to search the vehicle. Thus, because Shelhammer failed to demonstrate that the consent to search was made after a time at which the detention had become unreasonable in length or scope, the court overruled this point of error. Shelhammer, the court stated, also asserted that the trial court erred by refusing to include in the jury charge his requested charge outlining the elements of the offense of following too close. The court found that Shelhammer failed to cite any authority or rationale to support this contention. Similarly, the court found no basis for Shelhammer’s assertion that the trial court erred by denying his request for a jury instruction on whether the evidence was legally obtained, because Shelhammer failed to raise a fact issue as to whether the traffic stop was valid. Shelhammer finally argued that the trial court violated his right to fair trial under the Texas Constitution by denying his motion to recuse and to appoint a licensed attorney to preside as the judge over his trial. The court found no legal authority to support this final point of error. OPINION:Edelman, J.; Yates, Edelman and Seymore, JJ.

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