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City of Atwood v. Pianalto

Supreme Court of Kansas

May 22, 2015

CITY OF ATWOOD, Appellee,
v.
RICHARD DAVID PIANALTO, Appellant

Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed February 14, 2014.

Appeal from Rawlins District Court; GLENN D. SCHIFFNER, judge.

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

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. A traffic stop is considered a seizure of the driver for purposes of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. To comply with the Fourth Amendment, the officer conducting the stop must have a reasonable and articulable suspicion, based on fact, that the person stopped has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.

3. The reasonableness of an officer's suspicion is based on the totality of the circumstances viewed from the perspective of a trained law enforcement officer. Reasonable suspicion arises from the combination of an officer's understanding of the facts and the relevant law.

Daniel C. Walter, of Ryan, Walter & McClymont, Chtd., of Norton, argued the cause and was on the briefs for appellant.

Charles A. Peckham, city attorney, argued the cause and was on the briefs for appellee.

OPINION

Page 1049

BILES, J.:

Richard D. Pianalto appeals from his conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol, arguing the evidence of that offense was the product of an illegal traffic stop. Pianalto claims the officer who initiated the stop was mistaken about the applicable speed limit because a traffic sign normally posting the [301 Kan. 1009] limit had been knocked to the ground. Pianalto contends the speed limit increased as a matter of law on the seemingly unposted roadway, so the officer had no basis to pull Pianalto over for speeding. We affirm his conviction.

Factual and Procedural Background

Early on the morning of January 1, 2012, an Atwood police officer observed Pianalto's vehicle traveling westbound on North Lake Road within the city limits. Using his radar gun, the officer checked Pianalto's speed as their vehicles passed each other. This instrument showed Pianalto traveling 28 miles per hour. The officer, a lifelong city resident, believed there was a posted 20 miles per hour speed limit on North Lake Road, so the officer activated his emergency equipment to initiate a traffic stop for a speeding violation. The officer was unaware the speed limit sign at this location had been knocked down.

During the stop, the officer developed suspicion that Pianalto was intoxicated. He administered field sobriety tests and arrested Pianalto. An evidentiary breath test showed Pianalto had a breath alcohol concentration of .148 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath, which is well in excess of the .08 specified by statute. See K.S.A. 2011 Supp. 8-1567. Pianalto was convicted in Atwood Municipal Court of DUI and speeding.

Pianalto appealed both convictions for a trial de novo in ...


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