City of Missoula v. Sharp

City of Missoula v. Sharp, 2015 MT 289 (Oct. 6, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.) (6-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the officer had sufficient objective data to form particularized suspicion to justify the investigatory stop of Sharp.

Short Answer: Yes.


Facts: Officer Lloyd was parked in downtown Missoula one November night when he observed several vehicles stop at a stoplight, one of which was sharp’s pickup. The speed limit there is 25 mph. When the light turned green, Lloyd heard Sharp rev the engine and speed across the intersection, leaving the other cars behind. Lloyd turned into traffic and followed Sharp with his lights activated. Sharp stopped after a few blocks. Lloyd noticed Sharp slurring his speech, and was eventually charged with DUI after refusing to submit to a breath or alcohol test.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Sharp moved to suppress the evidence from the stop on the basis that Officer Lloyd lacked particularized suspicion to stop him. The municipal court denied the motion, Sharp entered into a plea agreement and reserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion. The district court affirmed, Sharp appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Particularized suspicion does not require certainty. Although Lloyd did not have radar confirmation, he testified that in his opinion Sharp was speeding. Lloyd had a direct view of Sharp’s truck and the other vehicles around it. His observations are sufficient.