Jason Watson

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In Miller v. Arkansas, the Arkansas Court of Appeals had to decide whether an officer's subjective intent would make an otherwise legitimate traffic stop and ensuing search pretextual. In December 1991, a confidential informant told Arkansas state police officer Roger Ahlf that Roger Miller was a cocaine dealer and was driving a black van on a suspended driver's license. After verifying this information, Officer Ahlf stopped Miller for driving on a suspended license. Ahlf then frisked Miller for weapons. During the frisk, the officer found an address book that contained less than 1.5 grams of marijuana residue. The officer took Miller into custody and upon searching his van found a plastic bag of cocaine. In a pretrial motion, Miller moved to suppress the evidence claiming his arrest was pretextual. At the suppression hearing, the officer admitted that he normally did not work traffic duty and stopped Miller only in the hope of finding drugs. The trial court denied Miller's motion, holding that although the officer may have had additional motives, the evidence did not establish that he would not have arrested Miller absent the interest in searching for drugs. After the trial court denied the motion, Miller entered a conditional plea of guilty. Miller appealed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, claiming that the trial court erred in not suppressing the evidence obtained at the arrest. The court of appeals affirmed the lower court, holding that a court is to test police searches under an objective standard without regard to the subjective intent of the officer involved.