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State of Kansas v. Melvin Hernandez Martinez

February 1, 2013


Appeal from Johnson District Court; JOHN ANDERSON, III, judge.


SYLLABUS BY THE COURT 1. An appellate court reviews the district court's decision on a motion to suppress using a bifurcated standard. Without reweighing the evidence, the district court's findings of fact are reviewed to determine whether they are supported by substantial competent evidence. A de novo standard of review is then used to review the ultimate legal conclusion regarding the suppression of evidence. 2. Encounters between law enforcement officers and the public are generally classified under one of four categories: (a) consensual encounters; (b) investigatory detentions, also known as Terry stops; (c) public safety stops; and (d) arrests. 3. Officers may conduct an investigatory stop only when there is reasonable suspicion the person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. K.S.A. 22-2402 (1).

4. In reviewing a law enforcement officer's reasonable suspicion of criminal activity under K.S.A. 22-2402(1), the officer must be able to articulate more than a mere hunch of criminal activity to fall within the statutory criteria.

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

Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed July 17, 2009.

Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court is reversed. Judgment of the district court is reversed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by

In this petition for review, we consider whether a district court properly denied a motion to suppress drug evidence found on Melvin Hernandez Martinez after law enforcement officers seized him under the suspicion that he knew the whereabouts of someone for whom police had a warrant. Martinez argues the officers conducted an unlawful investigatory stop without reasonable suspicion. A divided Court of Appeals panel affirmed the district court's denial of the motion to suppress. We reverse that decision.


Two law enforcement officers attempting to serve a felony arrest warrant on Alex Aguirre, a juvenile, went to an apartment where he was believed to be living. The officers spoke with two of Aguirre's sisters, who said he moved to Mexico the previous weekend. The officers left and went to another building in the complex because they had information Aguirre occasionally went there. When no one answered, the officers walked back toward their patrol car and saw a maintenance worker, who said he had seen Aguirre several times since the weekend. The officers also had information that Aguirre had been involved that same week in an unrelated incident.

The officers returned to their patrol car and decided to circle back around the complex to Aguirre's address. In doing so, they saw a black Mustang backing out of a parking space located directly behind the door to Aguirre's apartment. One officer said he recognized Martinez as the driver and previously had seen Aguirre riding in the Mustang on multiple occasions. The officer believed the probability of Martinez knowing the whereabouts of Aguirre was "highly likely," since he knew Aguirre had contact with Martinez.

As Martinez backed out, the officers stopped their patrol car inside one of two entry/exit ways into the parking lot. The officers approached Martinez' car on foot, began yelling "stop," whistled, and gestured for him to stop. Both officers were in uniform at the time, and one had a weapon drawn.

Martinez stopped his car, got out, and started walking towards the officers. One officer told Martinez to stop and said that he did not need to get out of his car. Once Martinez began getting back into his car, the officers started walking toward the Mustang and could see Aguirre through a back window lying flat on his back with his arms at his sides in the back seat. One officer estimated 20 seconds passed from the time officers whistled at Martinez to stop and the time they saw Aguirre in the back seat. The officer said he believed Martinez had been coming from Aguirre's apartment because the only information officers had about Martinez being in the area was that Aguirre lived there.

Once officers saw Aguirre in the back seat, they arrested him for the warrant and then arrested Martinez for obstructing legal process. Martinez was transported to the police station, where officers found cocaine during a routine search of his person. He was alternatively charged with aiding a felon and obstructing legal process, but was acquitted of those ...

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