Monday, October 03, 2011

DUI Law - Kansas Says Brights Stop is Illegal

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In State of Kansas v. Peach, Slip Copy, 2011 WL 4440184 (Table) (Kan.App.), the driver passed a cop car parked on the side of the road. The police vehicle may have had its headlights on or just the parking lights. The defendant did not dim his brights as he passed, so the police officer stopped the defendant. The trial court found the stop illegal:

"The district court reasoned that the statute Hendricks asserted Peach violated requires that a driver dim his or her high-beam headlights when approaching “an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet....” K.S.A. 8–1725(a). (Emphasis added.) On the undisputed evidence, Hendricks' police cruiser was parked on the side of the road. It was stationary. Accordingly, the district court concluded it could not have been an oncoming vehicle within the meaning of the statute, and Peach, therefore, had no obligation to dim his headlights.

The appellate court affirmed:

In construing statutory provisions, the appellate courts are to glean the legislative purpose and intent from the language used, and they are to give effect to that purpose and intent. State v. Gracey, 288 Kan. 252, 257, 200 P.3d 1275 (2009); Hall v. Dillon Companies, Inc., 286 Kan. 777, 785, 189 P.3d 508 (2008). It is not the courts' business or function to add to or take away from the language of a statute. And the courts should not impose some meaning on a statute beyond what the words themselves convey through their common and usual definitions. * * * *

The common meaning of “oncoming” entails movement forward. Webster's Third New International Dictionary Unabridged 1575 (1966) (Oncoming means “moving forward upon one.”); Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus 575 (2d ed. 2001) (Oncoming means “approaching from the front” and may be considered synonymous with “advancing” or “arriving.”); The American Heritage College Dictionary 971 (4th ed. 2004) (Oncoming means “coming nearer [or] approaching.”). An oncoming army is one that is advancing rather than bivouacked. The same may be said of cars. Hendricks' police cruiser was not “oncoming” when Peach drove by.

The State also tried to advance a good-faith exception, which was also rejected:

"In Martin v. Kansas Dept. of Revenue, 285 Kan. 625, 638–39, 176 P.3d 938 (2008), the court held that “an officer's mistake of law alone can render a traffic stop violative of the Fourth Amendment....” The court cited cases from the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and other federal authority supporting that principle. While the holding in Martin is not stated as rule without exception or to be invariably applied, the court certainly recognized a law enforcement officer's misunderstanding of the correct construction of a statute upon which he or she relied in making a stop and in seizing evidence would permit a formidable and likely successful Fourth Amendment challenge to those actions."

Editor's Note: Yes, this case is a real 'Peach' for the defense!

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