Submitted April 26, 2017
Jefferson County Circuit Court 15CR09474 Gary Lee Williams,
G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, and
Vanessa McDonald, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public
Defense Services, fled the brief for appellant.
F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor
General, and Jeff J. Payne, Assistant Attorney General, fled
the brief for respondent.
DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge, and Haselton,
Summary: Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for
criminal driving while suspended or revoked, ORS 811.182. He
assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion
to suppress evidence discovered after an officer pulled him
over for failing to display a front license plate on his
pickup truck, in violation of ORS 803.540(1)(b), which
requires that registration plates "be displayed on the
front and rear of the vehicle if two plates are
required." Defendant argues that the failure to display
a front license plate does not violate that statute, because
no law "require[s]" two plates. Held: The
trial court did not err, because the statutory context of ORS
803.540 establishes that "two plates are required"
for vehicles such as defendant's pickup truck.
Or.App. 780] DEHOOG, P. J.
appeals a judgment of conviction for driving while suspended
or revoked, ORS 811.182(4). He assigns error to the trial
court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence
discovered after an officer pulled him over for failing to
display a front license plate on his pickup truck, which the
officer considered a violation of ORS 803.540. Defendant
argues that the officer lacked probable cause to justify a
traffic stop because, he contends, the failure to display a
front license plate does not violate that statute or any
other law. We conclude that ORS 803.540 required defendant to
display a front license plate on his pickup truck and,
facts are few and undisputed. An officer observed defendant
driving a pickup truck that displayed an Oregon license plate
to the rear but that did not have a front license plate. The
officer pulled defendant over, believing that defendant's
failure to display a front license plate violated ORS
803.540. During the traffic stop, the officer
discovered that defendant's driving privileges were
suspended, and the state subsequently charged defendant with
misdemeanor driving while suspended or revoked, ORS
811.182(4). Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained
during the traffic stop, arguing that the officer lacked
probable cause to stop him because, he contended, ORS 803.540
does not require vehicles to display front license plates.
The trial court denied defendant's motion, after which he
entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed, assigning
error to the denial of his motion to suppress.
Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution, a police
officer may not initiate a stop to investigate a suspected
traffic violation unless the officer has probable cause to
believe that a violation has occurred. State v.
Husk, 288 Or.App. 737, 739, 407 P.3d 932 (2017), rev
den, 362 Or. 665');">362 Or. 665 [291 Or.App. 781] (2018). Probable
cause includes both a subjective and objective component: The
officer must subjectively believe that a traffic violation
has occurred, and that belief must be objectively reasonable.
Id. "'[A]n officer's subjective belief
that a traffic infraction occurred is objectively reasonable
if, and only if, the facts as the officer perceived them
actually satisfy the elements of a traffic
infraction.'" State v. Jones, 286 Or.App.
562, 564, 401 P.3d 271 (2017) (quoting State v.
Tiffin, 202 Or.App. 199, 203-04, 121 P.3d 9
appeal implicates only the objective component of probable
cause. Thus, we must determine whether the trial court erred
in concluding that defendant's failure to display a front
license plate "actually satisf[ied] the elements of a
traffic infraction." Id. We review that legal
conclusion for errors of law. Husk, 288 Or.App. at
the officer believed that defendant had violated ORS 803.540,
which provides, in part:
"(1) A person commits the offense of failure to display
registration plates if the person operates, on the highways
of this state, any vehicle or camper that has been assigned
registration plates by this state and the registration plates
assigned to the vehicle or camper ...