Monday, August 18, 2008

Flashing lights mean stop

Lydia Krebs won in State v. Mollett, No. 97,999 (Kan. App. Aug. 15, 2008)(unpublished), reversing a Sedgwick County burglary conviction and remanding for new trial. The COA majority concluded that by turning on lights, officers seized Mr. Mollett:
Relying on our Supreme Court's decisions in Morris and Greever, we find that Mollett's initial encounter with Sergeant Espinoza was not voluntary, but occurred under a show of authority. Pursuant to Morris and Greever, activation by Sergeant Espinoza of the emergency lights was a show of authority that would communicate to a reasonable person that there was an intent to intrude upon freedom of movement.
After determining that the Fourth Amendment was implicated, the majority considered whether reasonable suspicion justified the seizure:
Here, the district court identified very few facts to support its conclusion that reasonable suspicion of illegal activity justified Mollett's seizure: Mollett was parked in an alley in a high crime area at 1:22 a.m. We find these facts insufficient to create reasonable suspicion of illegal activity. That is because, although a location's characteristics are relevant as a factor to use in determining whether there was or was not reasonable suspicion, both the United States Supreme Court and our own court have held that the mere presence of an individual in a high crime area, in and of itself, is insufficient to create reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.
The majority also rejected a claim of inevitable discovery and, therefore, ordered suppression of the evidence obtained during the illegal seizure.

[Update: the state filed a PR on September 15, 2008].

[Further update: the KSC denied the state's PR and the mandate issued on January 23, 2009.]


leetiman said...

I recently got the local Reno County District Court to grant a motion to suppress on this exact issue. Judge Chambers reluctantly ruled that activation of emergency lights, even though my client had already parked his car, was a stop that trigged Fourth Amendment. Just like this case, my client was stopped for being in a certain area at a certain time of the night, nothing else.

leetiman said...

"trigged" ... sigh ... meant triggered