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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 (2011).

The questions answered by this case is:

Without a written arrest and detain order, can an officer hold a parolee after the conclusion of a traffic stop for the purpose of allowing a parole officer to conduct a search?

The issues in this case are: (1) did the officer have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity that justified further investigation and (2) if so, was the duration of stop to allow the parole officer to arrive lawful?

After a valid traffic stop, a driver is free to leave without further delay if the driver has a valid license and is entitled to operate the vehicle. Id. at 234. A traffic stop may be extended or prolonged when “circumstances relating to the stop give rise to suspicions unrelated to the traffic offense.” Id. More specifically, “an officer may expand the investigative detention beyond the purpose of the initial stop only if there is an objectively reasonable and articulable suspicion that criminal activity was or is taking place.” Id. Even if reasonable suspicion is obtained, “detaining a driver for even a few minutes to allow a drug-sniffing dog to arrive unreasonably extends the detention when the officer did not need additional time to ask exploratory questions.” Id. at 237.

In this case, the defendant was stopped for speeding in a rental car on a highway between Wichita and Hutchinson at 12:30 in the morning. Id. at 323. During ordinary course of stop, the officer ran the defendant’s information and learned he was on parole and that he was driving the rental with an expired rental agreement. Id. Approximately five minutes into the stop, the officer received a call from a drug enforcement unit officer stating the defendant was known to be moving cocaine between the two cities. Id. Another call came to the officer and he was asked to detain the defendant until a parole officer could conduct a search. Id. Nearly an hour after the initial stop, the parole officer arrived, placed the defendant in handcuffs, and searched the vehicle. Id. The search reveled a significant amount of cash and cocaine in the vehicle. Id.

The Court concluded that under the totality of the circumstances regarding the parole, specific knowledge, and the expired rental agreement, the officer “had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity that would allow him to expand the scope of his original stop.” Id. at 327. However, the officer’s investigation did not continue through a search until the parole officer arrived. Id. The detention of the defendant for an additional 35 minutes until the parole officer arrived was unreasonable. Id. Relying on the holding of State v. Mitchell, 960 P.2d 200, the Court held that “an officer may not arbitrarily detain a driver in order to obtain the presence of a parole officer.” Id. at 238.

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