BY THE COURT
routine traffic stop is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment
to the United States Constitution.
Traffic stops cannot be measurably extended beyond the time
necessary to process the infraction that prompted the stop
unless there is a reasonable suspicion of or probable cause
to believe there is other criminal activity, or consent.
Beyond simply determining whether to issue a citation, a law
enforcement officer's mission in a traffic stop typically
includes ordinary inquiries for: (i) checking the
driver's license; (ii) determining whether there are
outstanding warrants against the driver; and (iii) inspecting
the automobile's registration and proof of insurance. The
officer may also take negligibly burdensome precautions for
officer safety. Information gathering must be limited to the
infraction prompting the stop or those matters directly
related to traffic code enforcement, i.e., ensuring vehicles
on the road are operated safely and responsibly.
While a driver is being detained for a routine traffic stop,
a law enforcement officer may not conduct questioning
unrelated to the officer's mission if it measurably
extends the stop-absent probable cause or the reasonable
suspicion ordinarily demanded to justify detaining an
law enforcement officer need not disregard information that
may lead the officer to suspect other criminal activity
during a traffic stop. When the detainee's responses and
circumstances lead to suspicions unrelated to the traffic
offense, an officer may broaden the inquiry and satisfy those
Travel plan questioning is not always within a traffic
stop's scope. The circumstances will dictate that. To
fall within the stop's scope, such questions must have a
close connection to the initial infraction under
investigation or to roadway safety, i.e., ensuring vehicles
on the road are operated safely and responsibly. Otherwise,
they may be pursued by law enforcement only at the same time
as the officer is completing the tasks appropriate for
processing the initial infraction. Questioning outside the
stop's scope may not measurably extend the stop's
duration absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause to
independently support the additional detention.
Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause.
What is reasonable depends on the totality of the
circumstances in the view of a trained law enforcement
officer. In determining whether reasonable suspicion exists,
the court must judge the officer's actions in light of
common sense and ordinary human experience.
totality of the circumstances standard does not envision a
reviewing court pigeonholing each factor as to innocent or
suspicious appearances, but instead requires a determination
whether all the circumstances justify the detention. The
relevant inquiry is not whether particular conduct is
innocent or guilty, but whether a sufficient degree of
suspicion attaches to particular types of noncriminal acts.
The totality of the circumstances standard prohibits a
divide-and-conquer analysis under which factors that are
readily susceptible to an innocent explanation are entitled
to no weight.
of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished
opinion filed May 19, 2017.
from Geary District Court; Steven L. Hornbaker, judge.
Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the district court
is reversed. Judgment of the district court is reversed and
the case remanded.
R. Cruz, assistant county attorney, argued the cause, and
Derek Schmidt, attorney general, was on the briefs for
Michael P. Whalen, of Law Office of Michael P. Whalen, of
Wichita, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellee.
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires
that traffic stops not be measurably extended beyond the time
necessary to process the infraction prompting the stop-unless
there is consent, or a reasonable suspicion of or probable
cause to believe there is other criminal activity.
Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct.
1609, 1615, 191 L.Ed.2d 492 (2015). In the current case, the
State seeks interlocutory review of a district court decision
suppressing from evidence 38 pounds of marijuana seized after
a traffic stop along I-70. The court found the stop was
impermissibly extended. A Court of Appeals panel affirmed.
State v. Schooler, No. 116, 636, 2017 WL 2212102, at
*6 (Kan. App. 2017) (unpublished opinion). We granted review
and now reverse.
issue is whether the lower courts correctly concluded the
stop was unconstitutionally extended. The analysis is
complicated by the timing and other details attendant to the
stop, including the deputy's questions and the
driver's responses. See State v. Jimenez, (No.
116, 250 this date decided), slip op. at 19 (noting
circumstances dictate how a court views an officer's
progressive questioning during a traffic stop). As opposed to
the lower courts, we determine that (1) discrepancies between
the driver's statements and the vehicle-related documents
justified the deputy's questioning; (2) the questioning
occurred simultaneously with the deputy's appropriate
steps in processing the traffic stop; and (3) the
circumstances provided reasonable suspicion to extend the
detention for a drug dog sniff. We remand the case to the
district court for further proceedings.
and Procedural Background
facts are undisputed and supported by an audio/video
recording. We must detail what happened because
"[a]ssessing whether an officer unreasonably prolonged a
stop involves 'highly fact-specific inquiries.'"
United States v. Hill, 849 F.3d 195, 201 (4th Cir.
2017); see also Jimenez, slip op. at 20 (Caselaw
"requires careful case-by-case evaluation to determine
how the officer conducted or ordered the activities
associated with the traffic stop.").
February 2016, Shaun Schooler was driving a rented 2016 Dodge
pickup eastbound on I-70 when Geary County Sheriff's
Deputy Justin Stopper noticed snow obstructing the license
tag's lower half. The deputy initiated a traffic stop. He
approached Schooler's vehicle from the passenger side,
explained the reason for the stop, and asked for his
driver's license and vehicle registration, which in this
instance was a rental agreement.
Schooler complied, the deputy immediately asked where he was
coming from. He responded Denver, Colorado, heading to Kansas
City to fly back home to California. He told Stopper he had
flown in to Kansas City before traveling to Denver. The
rental agreement, however, stated the vehicle was rented in
California a few days earlier and was due back at the same
location a couple of days after the stop. The deputy later
testified the rental location and dates were peculiar to him
because of Schooler's explanations about his travel
itinerary. Stopper asked why Schooler was in Denver. He said
he was skiing with friends and had dropped off a 16-foot
trailer. Stopper asked why he did not fly out of Denver.
Schooler explained "it was just cheaper to do it that
way." Stopper asked Schooler to confirm he flew into
Kansas City, and Schooler volunteered: "The car rental
is from San Diego. I totally know that it is. It's just
how they did it with the trailer and stuff, sir." When
Stopper suggested "normally" a "different
rental place" is not listed on a rental agreement,
Schooler said "it's not all me." Schooler
offered to produce airline tickets and began searching for
them inside the vehicle.
Schooler looked for his tickets, Stopper asked what kind of
trailer he dropped off and expressed disbelief the truck
could accommodate that trailer type. Stopper asked where he
picked up the trailer. Schooler said in Kansas City from a
friend. Stopper asked how that "work[ed] out[.]"
While Schooler continued to search for his airline tickets,
Stopper commented on a "giant duffel bag" the
officer saw in the truck's back seat.
could not locate his airline tickets and believed they were
in another backpack, which he asked to get from the back
seat. Because it was cold, Stopper suggested they sit in his
patrol vehicle. Schooler agreed. The deputy later testified
he suspected criminal activity as he left the truck's
passenger side to return to his own vehicle. He said his
suspicions at this point were based on detecting the odor of
air fresheners from the rental vehicle; observing multiple
cell phones, the large duffle bag, other items, and debris in
the passenger compartment; and noting the peculiarities with
Schooler's explanations about his travels and the vehicle
rental arrangement. The deputy texted for a drug dog. At this
point, about three minutes had passed from the stop.
the patrol car, the deputy continued questioning while
reviewing Schooler's driver's license and rental
documents and entering information into his vehicle's
mobile data terminal. He asked when Schooler got to Kansas
City. He responded "they rented it" on Friday, he
"got into Kansas City on Saturday, [and] skied Sunday,
Monday." He reiterated, "[T]hey did rent [the
vehicle] out of San Diego, " and he "just picked it
up in Kansas City." He explained he had a truck stolen
and "Geico Insurance rented it, in [his] name, and [he]
picked it up in Kansas City." He said either Geico or
Enterprise "took [the truck] out" to Kansas City.
During this time, Schooler searched a backpack he brought
into the patrol vehicle for airline tickets. He never found
continued prodding, saying he had "never heard of
anything like this happening." Schooler said he took the
trailer to Colorado to help out some friends. When Stopper
asked their names, Schooler said, "Oh. Alright."
Then, after a pause, he asked if he was "in some kind of
trouble . . . ." Stopper responded, "Well, your
story's a little odd. I'm just trying to make sure
everything's on the up-and-up and legit here." The
encounter had lasted five minutes and 45 seconds at this
six minutes into the stop, the deputy received responses on
his mobile data terminal advising him that Schooler was on
federal supervised release. Stopper learned there were no
outstanding warrants and the vehicle registration checked out
properly. Schooler denied being "on probation or
anything," but said he had been arrested "for a few
things . . . ." Schooler soon admitted his supervised
release status but denied being on probation. When asked why
he was on federal supervised release, Schooler sighed and
said "that was," paused, sighed, and then told
Stopper he was not "up to [unintelligible] no good"
and was "just trying to get home."
seven minutes and 30 seconds into the stop, Stopper radioed
his dispatch with Schooler's driver's license number
and date of birth. He explained at the suppression hearing he
did this to get additional information and verify what
Schooler was telling him because the mobile data terminal
could not access the appropriate databases. While waiting,
the deputy returned to questioning about "pretrial
status and stuff" because he knew "most times"
a person on pretrial supervision is not supposed to leave the
state. The deputy asked what Schooler got in trouble for, and
Schooler said it was for controlled substances. Stopper asked
how much and Schooler said "very little." Stopper
asked why it was federal supervision, and Schooler said
"it was on a base" in 2005. Stopper expressed
disbelief Schooler was still on probation in 2016, and
Schooler said that status would last another five years. The
deputy asked what kind of controlled substance and Schooler
said "a little bit of cocaine . . . ." Stopper
later testified he believed the probation term Schooler
described meant the conviction was "probably [for] more
than just a little bit of cocaine." Stopper resumed
questioning about the trailer and trip to Colorado. Schooler
said he picked it up from a friend's friend.
about nine minutes and 40 seconds into the stop, the deputy
asked Schooler if he was "being truthful" because
he had "never heard anything like this." Schooler
said there was nothing for him to lie about. Schooler offered
to make a phone call. The deputy declined but persisted in
asking why the friends did not move their own trailer and
commenting it was a long way out of the way. Schooler could
not recall from whom he picked up the trailer. Stopper then
asked how much Schooler's baggage fees were because the
large duffel bag was probably expensive to take on a plane.
He also noted Schooler had other large items in the truck,
which Schooler said mostly came from the duffel bag, although
that bag appeared full.
about 11 minutes and 45 seconds into the stop, the deputy
explained to Schooler he was continuing to wait for record
check verifications. Stopper asked Schooler to verify his
address again, asked him to explain his supervised release,
and inquired about prior arrests. The deputy asked Schooler
if he was "actually supposed to be out of the
state." Stopper again asked when Schooler flew into
about 13 minutes into the stop, the deputy radioed to
dispatch variations in the vehicle license tag numbers,
noting the snow was obscuring some letters and numbers and
some might have been reported incorrectly earlier. At that
point, the deputy received a radio call that seems to have
conveyed additional criminal history information. Then,
referring to Schooler's earlier statement that he had
been arrested for "a little bit of cocaine,"
Stopper said, "I think that was more than just a little
bit, it said importation." Schooler responded,
"[I]t's just what they hit me with, sir,"
saying it was a federal matter and happened on a military
15 minutes into the stop, the deputy again read license plate
number variations into the radio.
minutes into the stop, the deputy explained he was giving
Schooler a warning ticket for the obscured license plate and
asked Schooler for his signature. Stopper then told Schooler,
"[Y]ou're good to go." This was 18 minutes into
immediately, the deputy said, "Mr. Schooler, can I ask
you a couple more questions?" As Schooler began to say
he "just [wanted] to get back on the road," Stopper
asked if he had contraband, large amounts of currency, or
firearms in his vehicle. Schooler said he did not and denied
a request to search the truck. Stopper told Schooler he was
being detained because "[y]our story's garbage. I
believe criminal activity is afoot." The stop lasted 18
minutes and 30 seconds up to this point.
dog arrived 11 minutes later. Schooler continued denying
anything illegal was in the truck. The dog alerted. Inside
the duffle bag, 38 pounds of marijuana and a set of scales
were discovered. Schooler was arrested and charged with
narcotics offenses. See K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 21-5705(a)
(possession with intent to distribute); K.S.A. 79-5208
(dealer possessing marijuana without tax stamp).
district court suppression hearing
moved to suppress the marijuana and other evidence seized in
the search, arguing delays in calling for the driver's
license and vehicle plate checks resulted from questioning
unrelated to the stop and were unsupported by reasonable
suspicion. He claimed the deputy, in effect, conceded he
lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him when he told
Schooler he was "good to go."
State countered that travel plan inquiries as a generic
category do not extend a traffic stop. It also argued the
deputy was permitted to follow up on inconsistent or
implausible answers because Schooler's story was
questionable from the outset, so the officer had a duty to
verify the rental vehicle's lawful possession and resolve
the inconsistencies. The State contended Schooler's
"bizarre story" was enough to detain him for the
dog sniff and argued there was reasonable suspicion because
Schooler lied about his criminal history.
district court's suppression hearing, Stopper was the
only witness. He testified he had worked for the Geary County
Sheriff's Department for more than seven years. Two years
before that he was a Junction City police officer. The State