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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On May 1, 2005, Erin Bryan, a police officer with the city of Abilene, stopped Samuel Griffin Hart, because the computer in her patrol car showed that his automobile registration was expired. After approaching Hart’s vehicle and speaking to him, Bryan almost immediately learned that he had recently renewed his registration. Upon learning this, Bryan asked Hart about his driver’s license. He told her that his driver’s license was expired. After checking to see if Hart had any warrants, Bryan determined that Hart had a prior drug history and that his license had expired. Because Hart had a drug history, Bryan called for a canine officer. Bryan indicated that she had decided to write Hart a citation and was in the process of writing it when the canine officer arrived. Bryan testified that, after the dog alerted on Hart’s vehicle, another officer searched Hart’s person and found a crack rock in his pocket. Police arrested Hart, the state charged him and Hart pleaded guilty to possession. Hart appealed his conviction by the court upon his plea of guilty to the offense of possession of cocaine in an amount of less than one gram. The court assessed his punishment at two years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He contended in a single issue on appeal that the trial court erred in failing to grant his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of his illegal detention and a warrantless search of his person. HOLDING:Affirmed. Hart contended that any detention past the time that Bryan discovered that he had renewed his vehicle registration, thereby negating the reason for the traffic stop, was unreasonable. The issue presented, therefore, was whether Bryan’s inquiring about Hart’s driver’s license, running a computer check on him and writing him a citation for driving with an expired license was unreasonable under the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio. A Terry analysis, the court stated, has two prongs: a determination as to whether the officer’s action was justified at its inception and whether the search and seizure was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the stop in the first place. In deciding whether the scope of a Terry detention is reasonable, the court stated that the general rule is that an investigative stop can last no longer than necessary to effect the purpose of the stop. On a routine traffic stop, the court stated that police officers may request certain information from a driver such as a driver’s license and car registration and may conduct a computer check on that information. It is only after this computer check is completed and the officer knows that the driver has a currently valid license and no outstanding warrants and know that the car is not stolen that the traffic-stop investigation is fully resolved. It is at that point that the detention must end and the driver must be permitted to leave. Neither the Fourth Amendment nor the U.S. Supreme Court dictate that an officer making a Terry stop must investigate the situation in a particular order, the court stated. Such a stop may involve both an investigation into the specific suspected criminal activity and a routine check of the driver’s license and car registration. An officer’s action is unreasonable under the circumstances only if the license check unduly prolongs the detention, the court stated. The court noted that Bryan’s initial conversation with Hart did not last much more than a minute. Her computer check of Hart, conducted after she learned that he was driving with an expired driver’s license, lasted less than three minutes. While Bryan was in the process of writing Hart a citation for driving with an expired license, the canine unit she requested arrived in three to five minutes. Thus, the court held that all of Bryan’s conduct was reasonable under the circumstances and did not unduly prolong Hart’s detention. Hart also contended that, even if his detention was lawful, the warrantless search of his vehicle and person constituted an unreasonable search and seizure. The court agreed with Hart’s contention that a canine sniff search of a vehicle may implicate the Fourth Amendment if the search is conducted while the motorist is unlawfully detained. Thus, this argument failed, because Hart was not unlawfully detained. Hart also argued that even if the canine sniff search was valid, there was no probable cause for the search of his person. The police officers had the right to arrest Hart once it was determined that he was driving with an expired driver’s license, the court noted. Once there is probable cause to arrest, the accused may be searched incident to that arrest, the court stated. The court also held that the canine alert on Hart’s vehicle constituted probable cause for the search of that vehicle. OPINION:Hill, J.; McCall, Strange and Hill, JJ.

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