He can make contact with whomever he wishes. hat the law determines is whether or not he has a reasonable, articulable reason to detain someone against their will. Were you DETAINED, or did he approach and engage in conversation?
Terry is more concerned with justification for a pat-down search for weapons than dealing primarily with reasonable suspicion for a detention. Please review some of the USSC cases I provided for more information on detentions.
I do not think it is. But, I do not know what the officer reported to the school. Unless he provided entirely untrue, malicious and knowingly false information, I don't see you have any cause of action. But, if you have the money for an attorney, I am sure an attorney will be willing to write all manner of demands to whomever you wish.
I wasn't criminally charged, which I think you caught onto later. The question is whether or not his defamatory report is worthy of defamation claims and likewise whether or not the original stop, causing the report, was unconstitutional. If so, then the original report would have to be rescinded.
You say you were not impaired, he says you appeared to be. Again, not generally actionable. If it were, then every time a defendant were acquitted, or a case was not filed, a lawsuit would ensue. The standard is much higher than that.
The report included myself and other sober individuals, not in possession of alcohol, stating we were intoxicated and in possession of alcohol. He didn't do any sort of investigation to prove that any of us were intoxicated. He made a lot of assumptions which I feel have subsequently defamed myself.
But, as you are not going to court the issue will be one for a civil attorney to address if you feel it is worth the expense.
Then sue him and the university, and challenge the laws regarding detentions.
I don't think that officer should just "get away" with what I believe was an unconstitutional stop and subsequent defamation.
He could have, yes.
We were not stumbling, or being loud. Regardless, he was in his vehicle, hundreds of feet away. It appears he would have stopped any group walking towards campus with any sort of container and initiated an investigation. That is illegal, am I right?
Keep in mind that the articulable suspicion required for a detention is VERY low. Whiule the legal standard may be different in WA as your state is certainly free to establish a higher standard, here is the federal standard:
For an investigative stop or detention to be valid, you must have "reasonable suspicion" that: (1) criminal activity may be afoot and (2) the person you are about to detain is connected with that possible criminal activity. (Wardlow (2000) 528 U.S. 119; Ornelas (1996) 517 U.S. 690, 695-696; Sokolow (1989) 490 U.S. 1, 7-8)
To establish "reasonable suspicion," both the quality and quantity of the information you need is considerably less than the "probable cause" you need to arrest or search. (White (1990) 496 U.S. 325, 330; Bennett (1998) 17 Cal.4th 373, 387; Johnson (1991) 231 Cal.App.3d 1, 11.) "'[R]easonable suspicion' is a less demanding standard than probable cause and requires a showing considerably less than preponderance of the evidence. . . ." (Wardlow (2000) 528 U.S. 119, 123; Arvizu (2002) 534 U.S. 266, 274.)
"Reasonable suspicion" is evaluated based on objective facts. Your subjective thinking, i.e., the purpose behind your search or seizure (detention or arrest), should have no bearing on a court's determination of the legality of your action. Your "subjective intentions" are irrelevant in determining whether a detention or an arrest was justified. (See Sullivan (2001) 532 U.S. 769, 772; Whren (1996) 517 U.S. 806, 813; see also Robinette (1996) 519 U.S. 33, 38; Scott (1978) 436 U.S. 128, 138)
You did not say anything about a "frisk". To conduct a pat-down for weapons he would have to articulate some reason to believe you might be in possession of weapons. To search further - and beyond the scope of Terry - he would have to articulabe probable cause ... not all that difficult when contacting a number of underage students with at least some of them smelling of alcohol, provided the search is for containers of alcohol.
The question isn't whether or not the investigation was warranted or legal, its the question of whether or not the stop and fisk was constitutional.
See the above cases for further. Note that the articulable suspicion can be based upon the officer's experiences as well as his observations. It does NOT have to be empirical nor always logical, just reasonable.
However, does the officer have the right to make that assumption? Does an assumption, regardless of whether or not it is empirical or logical, make reasonable doubt? Is there any case law on this sort of thing, even outside of Washington?
An officer does not need reasonable suspicion to approach anyone. No law prevents an officer from contacting anyone that John Q. Citizen could also contact.
Do you need reasonable doubt to approach the suspects?
Subjective intent is legally irrelevant.
What if the argument is made that an officer wouldn't initiate approach if they didn't have the agenda of investigating?
So, you are saying that the officer approached your group and did not summon you over to him or command you stop until after the contact?
In police vernacular, we call that "a clue". By hiding it at their leg, that pretty much sent up a red flag that said "BOOZE!" And THAT action gave the officer reasonable suspicion to detain right there. Even a first year rookie will quickly learn that this is a common act of someone trying to conceal alcohol, not concealing a can of Sprite.
They claim that they weren't walking whaling the beer around but it was pretty discrete, down to the side of their leg.
And, recall that the officer needs only suspicion that some criminal activity MAY be afoot, not that it is more or less likely or even certain. We have never held law enforcement to such a standard ... if we did, they might as well sit in the office and wait for people to walk in and confess.
And from everything you have written, it seems reasonable under the law.
There was a clear detention.
You keep using "reasonable doubt" ... that is not the standard. Reasonable doubt is the standard to which the court is held in order to convict. The state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt ... the police can detain using reasonable suspicion that some criminal activity MAY be afoot.
There was also no questions really asked, just "let me see some ID" and then confirmation of our identities and then where are you going. But, there was seizure of our bodies and a stop and frisk (without the frisk however). I just believe it wasn't justified by reasonable doubt.
I do not see that you have any cause of action against the officer for the detention unless it is in violation of some unusual WA state law that I have never heard of. If he made a knowing and intentional lie to the university authorities, you might have a claim or a complaint there. But, I suspect he merely reported contact with a number of students who had been drinking or in possession of alcohol.
The money regarding an attorney isn't that big of a deal... I have interned for numerous criminal and civil rights attorneys that sort of "owe me favors" or have opened that venue before I don't foresee this entering a court room, but I want to at least file a complaint against the officer in effort to get the statement rescinded, or something to that fact.
I am the latter as well as a law enforcement supervisor (which you found in my signature).
If you don't mind me asking--are you an attorney or just an educated citizen? [Ignore this, I read your signature]