Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cause for stop evaporated

Steven C. Staker and Linda M. Barnes-Pointer won in co-defendants' consolidated cases in State v. Diaz-Ruiz, and State v. Diaz-Gomez, Nos. 100,926 and 100,927 (Kan. App. July 17, 2009), affirming Judge Hornbaker's suppression order. A trooper had stopped a vehicle on suspicion that a ladder was not secured:
Trooper Nicholas cited only one basis for the stop, i.e., that the ladder was loose in violation of K.S.A. 8-1906. That statute provides:

"(c) No person shall operate on any highway any vehicle with any load unless such load and any covering thereon is securely fastened so as to prevent the covering or load from becoming loose, detached or in any manner a hazard to other users of the highway."

When Nicholas approached the truck, he inspected and jiggled the ladder, and determined that it "probably wasn't going to fall off." He confirmed that the ladder "probably wasn't going anywhere" when he spoke to the defendants, advising them of the reason for the stop. Moreover, the videotape confirms that the ladder was strapped into the truck bed and did not present a hazard to others on the highway. Significantly, Nicholas never mentioned the ladder again, and he did not give the defendants either a verbal or written warning for violating 8-1906(c). Under these circumstances, we find substantial evidence supports the district court's factual finding that the trooper dispelled his suspicion of a possible violation of K.S.A. 8-1906(c) before he approached the defendants.

. . .

In conclusion, because the trooper's reasonable suspicion evaporated once he observed that the ladder was secure, the trooper had no reason to detain the defendants to perform the tasks incident to an ordinary traffic stop. Thus, the trooper unlawfully extended the scope of the stop by questioning the defendants regarding their travel plans and requesting identification.

[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on August 20, 2009.]

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