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State v. Douglas

Supreme Court of Kansas

May 31, 2019

State of Kansas, Appellant,
v.
Christopher Shane Douglas, Appellee.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         When a district judge's legal ruling in favor of the defense on a motion to suppress is infected with an obviously incorrect assessment of the State's evidence that is equivalent to an arbitrary disregard of a portion of that evidence, an appellate court cannot be certain if the district judge, once the error is pointed out, would arrive at the same or a different conclusion. In such circumstances, the wisest course for the appellate court is to reverse and then give the district judge another chance to review the record and explain himself or herself.

         Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed December 21, 2018. Appeal from Reno District Court; Trish Rose, judge. Judgment of the Court of Appeals reversing the district court is affirmed. Judgment of the district court is reversed and the case is remanded with directions.

          Natasha Esau, assistant district attorney, Keith Schroeder, district attorney, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were on the brief for appellant.

          Shannon S. Crane, of Hutchinson, and Sam S. Kepfield, of Hutchinson, were on the briefs for appellee.

          OPINION

          BEIER, J

         This case concerns reversal of a district judge's decision to suppress evidence and appropriate instructions for her further action on remand.

         We affirm the Court of Appeals majority's twin decisions to reverse the district judge's ruling and remand the case, but we would alter its instructions to match those suggested in the dissent of Judge Thomas E. Malone. The district judge should not be directed to deny the defendant's motion but to reconsider it in light of a corrected understanding of the evidence before her.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Reno County Sheriff's Deputy Mikel Bohringer stopped defendant Christopher Shane Douglas for speeding. As Douglas leaned over to look inside the glove compartment, Bohringer saw a capsule he suspected of containing methamphetamine sticking out of Douglas' pocket.

         Bohringer called for backup after returning to his vehicle. Once backup arrived, he ordered Douglas out of the truck and seized the capsule from the driver's seat, where Bohringer had seen it fall on Douglas' exit. Field testing revealed the capsule contained methamphetamine. Searches of Douglas and the truck followed, and the search of Douglas' person apparently uncovered additional contraband. Douglas was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

         Douglas filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing Bohringer violated his federal and state constitutional rights.

         At the hearing on the motion, Bohringer testified that, using his flashlight, he had "observed a clear capsule with a crystalized substance inside of it, just hanging out of [Douglas'] left front [pants] pocket" for about five seconds and suspected it contained methamphetamine.

         The district court judge agreed with Douglas that his rights had been violated because law enforcement extended the traffic stop longer than necessary to issue a speeding ticket without reasonable and articulable suspicion, and ...


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