Thursday, December 01, 2011

Avoiding police is not evidence of crime

Lydia Krebs won in State v. Edwards, No. 104,034 (Kan. App. Oct. 28, 2011)(unpublished), obtaining reversal of a Johnson County felony DUI conviction. The case turned on a claim that officers did not have reasonable suspicion to detain Mr. Edwards in a Hy-Vee parking lot:
Therefore, Officer Njoroge needed reasonable suspicion of criminal activity for her initial encounter to have lawfully continued into an investigatory detention for the DUI tests. Officer Njoroge's decision to stop Edwards' car was arguably based on seven factors: (1) that Edwards' car “slowly crossed” 123rd Street; (2) that Edwards' car “accelerated quickly”; (3) that Edwards was attempting to avoid Officer Njoroge; (4) that Edwards pulled the car into a parking lot and went behind Hy–Vee; (5) that Edwards “blacked out” the car and did not park within a parking stall; (6) that there recently had been a robbery at the particular Hy–Vee; and (7) that there recently had been burglaries in the “area.”

In the case before us, none of the seven factors taken alone, or collectively, rises to the level of legally recognized reasonable suspicion. The crux of the State's argument rests on Officer Njoroge's conclusion that Edwards was attempting to “elude” Njoroge. No facts substantiate this conclusion. Moreover, the record suggests no reasonable basis from which Officer Njoroge could draw such an inference. If this factor is gone, the rest of Officer Njoroge's reasonable suspicion topples like a house of cards. Indeed, if the unsupported characterization that Edwards was attempting to “elude” Njoroge is removed from the equation in this case, there is no factual predicate to support what the law recognizes as reasonable suspicion.

Attempting to “elude” a police officer, even at 1 a.m. is insufficient to give law enforcement officers the requisite reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop because attempting to “elude” an officer is not a crime when no illegal activity occurs. The remaining factors that Officer Njoroge relied on, under the totality of circumstances, fail to establish reasonable suspicion.
Because the state did not prove that the officer had articulable facts that collectively provided reasonable suspicion for the stop, the detention and subsequent investigation violated the Fourth Amendment.

[Update: the state filed a PR on November 28, 2011.]

[Further update: the KSC denied the state's PR and the mandate issued on May 21, 2012.]

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