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State v. Glover

Supreme Court of Kansas

July 27, 2018

State of Kansas, Appellant,
v.
Charles Glover, Appellee.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1.A routine traffic stop is a warrantless seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and is therefore unreasonable unless the officer who initiates the stop has a reasonable and articulable suspicion, based on facts, that the person stopped has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.

         2. Courts evaluate the existence of a reasonable suspicion under a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis that requires a case-by-case assessment.

         3. The State bears the burden to justify a warrantless seizure, and it must do so with actual evidence. In determining whether the State has met its burden, a court cannot draw inferences in favor of the State from a lack of evidence in the record. Doing so impermissibly relieves the State of its burden.

         4. An officer cannot begin a traffic stop to investigate whether the driver of a vehicle has a valid license based solely on the fact the vehicle's registered owner has a suspended or revoked driver's license. The officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts from which the officer can rationally infer that the driver of the vehicle-not just the registered owner-has a suspended driver's license.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 54 Kan.App.2d 377, 400 P.3d 182 (2017).

          Appeal from Douglas District Court; Paula B. Martin, judge.

          Andrew Bauch, assistant district attorney, argued the cause, and John Grobmyer, legal intern, Charles E. Branson, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the brief for appellant.

          Elbridge Griffy IV, of Lawrence, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellee.

          OPINION

          LUCKERT, J.:

         The United States Supreme Court has determined that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows a law enforcement officer to initiate a traffic stop only when the officer has an articulable and reasonable suspicion, based on fact, that the person stopped has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. Here, the officer stopped a vehicle simply because he assumed the driver was the registered owner, whose driver's license had been revoked. The officer had no information to support the assumption that the owner was the driver.

         The driver moved to suppress evidence obtained during the stop, arguing the officer did not have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity when he stopped the car. The district court agreed, finding unreasonable the officer's assumption that the car's driver was the registered owner. The State appealed that ruling, and the Court of Appeals reversed. State v. Glover, 54 Kan.App.2d 377, 400 P.3d 182 (2017). On review of that decision, we reverse the Court of Appeals and affirm the district court. We hold the officer lacked an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the unidentified driver did not have a valid driver's license; the officer's assumption was only a hunch and was unsupported by a particularized and objective belief.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         While on routine patrol, Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Mehrer observed a 1995 Chevrolet pickup truck and ran the truck's license plate number through the Kansas Department of Revenue's database. Deputy Mehrer learned Charles Glover, Jr., had registered the vehicle and Glover's Kansas driver's license had been revoked. Deputy Mehrer did not observe any traffic violations but initiated a traffic stop based on his assumption that Glover was driving the vehicle. He did not try to confirm the identity of the driver before initiating the traffic stop.

         The State charged Glover with driving as a habitual violator. He filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop. The parties entered into the following stipulation of facts on which the district court decided the motion:

"1. Deputy Mark Mehrer is a certified law enforcement officer employed by the Douglas County[, ] Kansas Sheriff's Office.
"2. On April 28, 2016, Deputy Mehrer was on routine patrol in Douglas County when he observed a 1995 Chevrolet 1500 pickup truck with Kansas plate 295ATJ.
"3. Deputy Mehrer ran Kansas plate 295ATJ through the Kansas Department of Revenue's file service. The registration came back to a 1995 Chevrolet 1500 ...

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