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State v. Marx

October 26, 2007

STATE OF KANSAS, APPELLANT,
v.
PETER J. MARX, APPELLEE.
STATE OF KANSAS, APPELLANT,
v.
DESIREE M. MARX, APPELLEE.



Appeal from Lyon District Court, JEFFRY J. LARSON, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. In reviewing a district court's decision regarding suppression, an appellate court reviews the factual underpinnings of the decision by a substantial competent evidence standard and the ultimate legal conclusion by a de novo standard with independent judgment. An appellate court does not reweigh evidence, pass on the credibility of witnesses, or resolve conflicts in the evidence.

2. The State bears the burden of proving the lawfulness of a search and seizure by a preponderance of the evidence.

3. A civil or criminal infraction is not always essential to justify a vehicle stop. Safety reasons alone may justify the stop if the safety reasons are based on specific and articulable facts.

4. The legality of a public safety stop can be evaluated in three steps. First, as long as there are objective, specific, and articulable facts from which a law enforcement officer would suspect that a citizen is in need of help or is in peril, the officer has the right to stop and investigate. Second, if the citizen is in need of aid, the officer may take appropriate action to render assistance. Third, once the officer is assured that the citizen is not in peril or is no longer in need of assistance, any actions beyond that constitute a seizure, implicating the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

5. Although a police stop for a traffic violation may be pretextual in nature, a community caretaking stop is justified only if the officer is motivated by public safety concerns.

6. An officer may stop any person in a public place whom the officer reasonably suspects is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime.

7. The interpretation of a statute is a question of law over which an appellate court has unlimited review. An appellate court is not bound by the district court's interpretation of a statute.

8. The fundamental rule of statutory construction is to ascertain the legislature's intent. The legislature is presumed to have expressed its intent through the language of the statutory scheme. Ordinary words are given their ordinary meanings. A statute should not be read to add language that is not found in it or to exclude language that is found in it. When a statute is plain and unambiguous, the court must give effect to the legislature's intent as expressed rather than determining what the law should or should not be.

9. K.S.A. 8-1522 is construed and applied.

10. Under the facts of this case, a law enforcement officer's observation that a driver's vehicle crossed the fog line, overcorrected, and crossed the centerline was sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion of a violation of K.S.A. 8-1522.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Malone, J.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Before GREENE, P.J., MALONE and LEBEN, JJ.

The State of Kansas appeals the district court's decision granting motions to suppress evidence arising from a vehicle stop. This is a consolidated appeal involving co-defendants, Peter J. Marx and Desiree M. Marx. The district court suppressed the evidence because it found the vehicle stop was unlawful. We agree with the district court's finding that the vehicle stop was not justified as a public safety or community caretaking stop. However, we disagree with the district court's finding that the sheriff's deputy lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the Marxes' vehicle for failure to maintain a single lane, in violation of K.S.A. 8-1522. The motions to suppress raised other issues which the district court did not reach that involve disputed facts and require credibility determinations. Accordingly, we remand the case to district court for further proceedings.

Factual and Procedural Background

On August 22, 2006, Deputy Cory Doudican, of the Lyon County Sheriff's Department, was stopped on the side of the Kansas Turnpike at milepost 127 assisting a motorist. As the Marxes' motor home passed by Doudican's location, a hubcap flew off the motor home and landed near Doudican. After retrieving the hubcap, Doudican followed the motor home, now on I-35, and caught up with the motor home around milepost 128. Doudican ultimately ...


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