Thursday, February 17, 2011

DUI Appeal of the Day - When Car Mistakenly Pulls Over There is No Illegal Stop and Seizure

In State of Kansas v. Reiss, --- P.3d ----, 2010 WL 5129859 (Kan.App.), Rex Reiss had the misfortune to be driving one of two vehicles directly behind a blue pickup that had no lights. When an officer pulled behind the three vehicles to stop the one with no lights on, Reiss stopped directly behind the blue pickup. When the officer pulled his car right behind Reiss (there was no room between Reiss' truck and the blue pickup), Reiss immediately got out of the truck and began walking toward the police car, vehemently questioning what he'd done wrong. The officer then directed Reiss to go back to his car. When the officer finally approached, the interaction led to a drunk driving arrest. The district court held that Reiss had not been seized, even when the officer ordered Reiss back to his truck, because the officer was merely taking normal steps that a reasonable and cautious officer would take for safety when a single officer was on hand and more than one vehicle had stopped.

The Kansas court of Appeals discussed the law of search and seizure:

"In a voluntary encounter between a citizen and a police officer, the officer is free to ask questions even in the absence of any suspicion the citizen is up to no good. See State v. McGinnis, 290 Kan. 547, 552-53, 233 P.3d 246 (2010). But to stop a person traveling on the roadway, even briefly for the purpose of investigation (an “investigatory detention”), the officer must have reasonable suspicion that something's amiss, meaning an objective and specific basis for believing that the person being detained is involved in criminal activity. See State v. Pollman, 286 Kan. 881, Syl. ¶¶ 3-5, 190 P.3d 234 (2008). And to arrest someone, the officer must meet an even higher standard: probable cause, which exists when a person of reasonable caution could conclude from the known facts that an offense has been or is being committed. State v. Fewell, 286 Kan. 370, Syl. & 4, 184 P .3d 903 (2008); Barriger, 239 P.3d at 1291."
Whether a person inadvertently stopped by police has been seized was a matter of first impression for Kansas. That issue, however, had been discussed extensively in a recent decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, United States v. Al Nasser, 555 F.3d 722, 725-32 (9th Cir.2009). The Ninth Circuit concluded that a driver was not seized-and therefore no Fourth Amendment violation had occurred-when the driver stopped his vehicle because of police activity but the officers did not intend for that driver to stop. 555 F.3d at 731-32. The defendant in Reiss continued to argue that whether or not he was seized when he first pulled over, the encounter became a seizure when Officer Ritter ordered Reiss to return to his truck. The appeals court herein agreed with Reiss on this point:

"A seizure occurs when there is a show of authority by the officer that would communicate to a reasonable person that he or she is not free to leave and that person submits to the show of authority. Brendlin v. California, 551 U.S. 249, 254-55, 127 S.Ct. 2400, 168 L.Ed.2d 132 (2007); State v. Morris, 276 Kan. 11, Syl. ¶ 5, 72 P.3d 570 (2003). Officer Ritter's forceful commands led Reiss to return to his truck. Because Reiss was clearly seized at that point and no incriminating evidence was obtained before then, we need not determine whether he had been seized when he initially pulled over, even though the officer hadn't intended to stop him."
In finding the seizure reasonable, the Kansas court stated as follows:

"Ritter said he was “concerned on what [Reiss'] purpose was” when Reiss approached the officer, and this caused the officer to proceed cautiously. When Ritter approached Reiss' truck, Ritter asked why Reiss had gotten out of his truck and for identification rather than simply telling Reiss he was free to leave. On these facts, however, we see nothing unreasonable about that. Given the aggressive approach Reiss had taken at the scene, Ritter was properly concerned about his safety and asking for identification in this circumstance was itself only a minimal intrusion. See Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 434-35, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 115 L.Ed.2d 389 (1991); United States v.. Diaz-Castaneda, 494 F.3d 1146, 1153 (9th Cir.), cert. denied 552 U.S. 1031 (2007).
Sometimes the fish jumps into the boat. Such was the case for Rex Reiss.

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