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Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.

State v. Coleman, 257 P.3d 320 (Kan. 2011).
This case answers the following question: Can evidence be used in court that was discovered after a prolonged detention?

The issue in this case is whether a police officer can detain a driver to wait for the presence of a parole officer in a routine traffic stop. An officer may expand the duration of the investigation detention beyond an initial stop when the responses of a detainee and the circumstances relating to the stop give rise to suspicions unrelated to the traffic offense.

In 2007, a police officer stopped a car for speeding and identified Coleman as the driver. The car was a rental and the rental agreement had expired two days prior; Coleman claimed that he had renewed the agreement over the phone, which struck the officer as odd. When the police officer ran a check on Coleman, he learned that Coleman was on parole. At this point, the officer received a call from a different officer in the drug enforcement unit. This officer stated that the unit had specific knowledge that Coleman was moving cocaine between Wichita and Hutchinson. Then a parole officer called and stated that Coleman’s parole officer had concerns about these trips between Wichita and Hutchinson, and he asked the officer to detain Coleman for a search. Two backup officers arrived, and 35 minutes after the initial stop, the parole officer arrived. The parole officer placed Coleman in handcuffs but told him that he was not under arrest. $1,035 was found in cash on Coleman, and rocks, which field tested positive for cocaine, latex gloves, and a box of sandwich baggies were found in the car. Coleman did not receive a ticket for speeding but was charged with one count of possession of cocaine with intent to sell, one count of possession of cocaine without tax stamps, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to package a controlled substance for sale. Coleman filed a motion to suppress the evidence, but the motion was denied, and he was found guilty on all three charges. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions.

In this case, during a routine traffic stop, an officer found that an expired rental agreement, Coleman’s parolee status, and reports that it was likely that Coleman was engaged in drug transportation provided the officer with a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Due to this, the officer was justified in detaining Coleman temporarily and investigating further. However, the issue at hand is whether the detention was of a lawful duration.

An officer may expand the duration of the investigation detention beyond an initial stop when the responses of a detainee and the circumstances relating to the stop give rise to suspicions unrelated to the traffic offense. As a parolee, Coleman has a lower expectation of privacy than probationers and other citizens because parole is more akin to punishment than is probation. This means that due to the interest in supervising parolees, there is more of a justification for privacy intrusions that the fourth amendment would not normally allow.

Given that the officer in this case had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, he would have been authorized to expand the scope of the original stop. However, the officer did not immediately perform a search, he waited 35 minutes for backup officers and a parole officer to arrive. The sole purpose of detaining Coleman in this case was to allow enough time for a parole officer to arrive and conduct a search. Under Kansas state law, an officer may be authorized by a parole officer to carry out an arrest by issuing a written arrest and detain order. In this case, the officer was never given a written arrest and detain order. Therefore the officer did not have statutory authority to arrest Coleman, nor did the officer have a legal reason to arrest Coleman until the parole officer arrived and completed a search.

The Supreme Court of Kansas held that an officer may not detain a driver in order to obtain either a drug-sniffing dog or the presence of a parole officer. Therefore, the evidence seized in this case as a result of the unlawful arrest must be suppressed. The judgment of the lower courts is reversed.

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