Friday, August 17, 2012

No reasonable suspicion of impeding traffic or obstructed vision

Michael Redmon won in State v. Saucedo, No. 106,742 (Kan. App. Aug. 10, 2012)(unpublished), reversing a Wyandotte County drug conviction.  The main issue had to do with a car stop for impeding traffic and driving with a cracked windshield.   Although the COA held that the district court's resolution of contested facts supported a finding that the car was parked three feet from the curb, it disagreed with the legal conclusion that this fact supported reasonable suspicion of impeding traffic:
First, as the parties conceded at oral argument, it does not appear that K.S.A. 8-1569 is applicable to the facts of this case. The statute only applies “outside a business or residence district .” The undisputed evidence in this case indicates that Saucedo's car was parked in a residence district and he was parked directly in front of someone's house.
Second, even if the statute applied, the State failed to present any evidence whether it was practicable for Saucedo “to stop, park or leave such vehicle off the roadwayFor instance, the State failed to establish if there was a driveway that Saucedo could have pulled into rather than parking on the street.
Third, the State failed to present any evidence that Saucedo's car was impeding traffic on the roadway. In fact, when asked if there was enough room for another vehicle to go around the stopped car, Hopkins replied, “Possibly on the right-hand side.” On cross-examination, Hopkins agreed that “a car could have gone on the right-hand side ... in that right lane and passed him without any trouble.” Finally, the State failed to present any evidence whether Saucedo's car could be seen from 200 feet away.
The COA similarly held that the record did not support a finding that the driver's windshield was cracked in a way that obstructed the driver's vision:
Here, the State's only evidence of a cracked windshield was Hopkins' testimony that, as he pulled in behind Saucedo's car, he noticed “an obstructed windshield.” The State made no attempt to dispute Mack's testimony that the crack in the car's windshield was 3 inches long toward the bottom right-hand corner of the passenger's side of the windshield. The county ordinance provides that no person shall drive a vehicle with a damaged front windshield which “substantially” obstructs the driver's clear view of the roadway. We conclude that the State failed to meet its burden that Hopkins had reasonable suspicion to stop and detain Saucedo based on a damaged windshield that substantially obstructed the driver's view.
Because the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the car, the subsequent search of the car was illegal.

[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on September 13, 2012.]

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