Friday, August 25, 2006

You really don't need to check my license for safety purposes

Jean Phillips at the KU Defender Project won in State v. Gonzales, No. 93,845 (Aug. 25, 2006), reversing some Butler County drug convictions. The state argued that the continued detention as a public safety stop. The COA acknowledged that the stop itself was justified, but held that the officers' continued detention was illegal. The COA wrote some nice language on the limited nature of a public safety stop:
A public safety stop is not for investigative purposes. Asking for information about the ownership of the truck and demanding and retaining the occupants' driver's licenses exceeded the justification for the stop. That justification was limited to an examination of the tire to determine if it was safe to continue driving and to alert the driver about the condition of the tire. Obtaining and retaining the occupants' driver's licenses, under the circumstances of this case, exceeded the legitimate bounds for a safety stop.
Any detention must be limited and does not even include a license check. This is another example of a COA decision holding law enforcement really accountable under the Fourth Amendment. Is it just me or are we getting a lot of these cases lately? Or is it that law enforcement officers are just pushing the envelope harder than ever before?

[Update: the state did not file a petition for review and the mandate issued on September 28, 2006.]

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