determination of whether an officer has reasonable grounds
for a particular action involves a mixed question of law and
fact, and appellate courts review the ultimate legal
conclusion-whether reasonable grounds existed-independently,
while deferring to the district court's factual findings
that are supported by substantial competent evidence.
arresting officer's recorded statement to a driver that
she reeked of alcohol is nothing more than an out-of-court
statement without evidentiary value unless the usual
standards for establishing the competence of evidence are
Although field sobriety tests may have objective grading
criteria that officers must follow, it is an officer's
subjective opinion that determines whether a suspect has
passed the objective field sobriety tests.
Field sobriety tests are based on common knowledge, and a
reviewing judge may use common knowledge to reevaluate a
driver's performance on field sobriety tests.
of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished
opinion filed October 14, 2016.
from Sedgwick District Court; Kevin J. O'Connor, judge.
D. King, of Legal Services Bureau, Kansas Department of
Revenue, argued the cause, and J. Brian Cox, of the same
office, was on the briefs for appellant.
Jonathan W. McConnell, of Wichita, argued the cause and was
on the briefs for appellee.
Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR) suspended Kelly
Casper's driving privileges based on her arrest and
refusal to take a blood alcohol test. She appealed to
district court, where the judge held that she met her burden
of proving both that the arresting officer lacked reasonable
grounds to believe that she was driving while impaired and
lacked probable cause to arrest her. KDOR appealed to the
Court of Appeals, which reversed, holding that the record on
appeal supported an opposite conclusion. We granted
Casper's petition for review and now reverse the decision
of the Court of Appeals panel.
to Casper's testimony before the district court, on
October 25, 2013, she was visiting family in Wichita, Kansas,
and had a glass of wine at around 5:30 in the afternoon. A
couple of hours later, she took some sips of alcoholic
beverages at a friend's house in order to taste-test the
drinks for an upcoming party. At around midnight, she drove
away from her friend's house and, when making a right
turn, turned into the left travel lane instead of the lane
nearest her turn lane.
Steven Thornton of the Wichita Police Department witnessed
the wide turn, which, while a relatively common type of turn,
is a traffic infraction. He followed Casper's car for a
while and did not observe any other traffic infractions. He
saw no driving indicators that the operator was impaired. He
turned on his emergency blinking lights and followed her as
she signaled, pulled over into the right lane, and then
turned onto a side street. At the same time, a video
recording of the encounter was commenced, which was later
entered into evidence.
asked Casper if she had been drinking, and she said yes. He
then asked her to get out of the car and perform a couple of
field sobriety tests. According to Thornton's testimony
in district court, Casper's eyes were not bloodshot, and
her statements were, for the most part, clear and concise.
Thornton testified that Casper was initially
"fine," but, over the course of several tests, she
"became a tad bit uncooperative" and "a little
argumentative." He asked her to perform three field
sobriety tests: a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a
walk-and-turn test, and a balance-on-one-foot test. In his
estimation, she did not perform these tests satisfactorily,
and he placed her under arrest. She subsequently refused to
take a breathalyzer test.
issued Casper a notice of suspension for refusing to take a
blood alcohol test. Casper timely requested an administrative
hearing. The KDOR Division of Vehicles conducted an
administrative hearing and, affirming the administrative
action suspending her license, concluded that law enforcement
had reasonable grounds to believe that ...