United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. BROOMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case comes before the court on Defendant's motion to
suppress. (Doc. 12.) The motion has been fully briefed and
the court held an evidentiary hearing on September 5, 2019.
(Docs. 13, 19.) Defendant's motion to suppress is DENIED
for the reasons herein.
court finds the following facts from the evidence presented
at the hearing. On February 27, 2019, Kansas Highway Patrol
Trooper R.P. Krause was patrolling on Interstate 70 in Thomas
County, Kansas. Krause's patrol vehicle was stationary on
a median and facing westbound. At approximately 4:15 p.m.,
Krause observed a sport utility vehicle ("SUV")
traveling eastbound. A Volkswagen Jetta (the
"Jetta") was traveling directly behind the SUV. As
the vehicles passed Krause, he observed that the Jetta was
traveling approximately two car lengths, or less than one
second, behind the SUV. They were traveling at approximately
70 to 75 miles per hour. Krause testified that the Jetta was
not driving at a safe distance at that speed because the
average reaction time is 11/2 seconds and that a safe
traveling distance is one car length for every ten miles per
hour of speed. Because of their positions, Krause believed
that the Jetta was travelling with the SUV. Krause was going
to stop the Jetta but wanted to first pull up to both
vehicles and check the number of occupants and run the
license plates. Krause testified that he took this action for
officer safety. He was also looking to see if the occupants
were wearing seat belts.
testified that both vehicles reduced their speed after
passing his patrol car. The Jetta also backed off of the SUV
and began driving at a reasonable distance from the SUV. As
Krause pulled up alongside the Jetta, he observed that the
windows had very dark tint. The tint was so dark that Krause
could not see the driver of the Jetta. Krause then pulled up
next to the SUV and observed that it was occupied by a sole
female driver. The SUV had a temporary Colorado tag. Krause
attempted to run the tag but he did not get a return. This is
not uncommon for Colorado temporary tags. The Jetta had
Nevada license plates.
decided to pull up ahead of the vehicles to find a safe place
to wait and stop the Jetta. Krause drove ahead and pulled to
the side of the highway. As soon as the vehicles passed
Krause on the highway, Krause activated his lights. This
action also activated his recording system, which begins
recording sound and also captures video, but not audio, from
the two minutes prior to the time the recording system was
activated. As shown at the hearing, the video began recording
after Krause had pulled in front of both vehicles on the
highway and, as a result, did not capture the Jetta at the
time it was driving only two car lengths behind the SUV,
which occurred when the vehicles initially passed Krause
while he was in the median.
Jetta pulled off of the highway in response to Krause's
lights. Krause approached the passenger side of the Jetta and
informed Defendant, who was driving the Jetta, that he was
being pulled over because his window tint was too dark and he
was following the SUV too closely. Ultimately, Defendant
consented to a search of the Jetta. The Jetta was taken to the
Oakley Kansas Department of Transportation building that was
located at the next exit. Once there, Krause tested the
window tint on the Jetta with a tint meter. The test result
showed that only 2% of light was being transmitted through
the driver side window. Upon a search of the Jetta,
approximately 1000 grams of heroin was discovered.
has now moved to suppress the drugs seized from his vehicle
on the basis that the initial stop violated the Fourth
Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const,
amend. IV. The Supreme Court has liberally interpreted
"seizures" to encompass routine traffic stops,
"even though the purpose of the stop is limited and the
resulting detention quite brief." See Delaware v.
Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653 (1979). An initial traffic
stop is justified at its inception if "an officer has
(1) probable cause to believe a traffic violation has
occurred, or (2) a reasonable articulable suspicion that a
particular motorist has violated any of the traffic or
equipment regulations of the jurisdiction." United
States v. Winder, 557 F.3d 1129, 1134 (10th Cir. 2009).
"Reasonable suspicion requires that an officer provide
'some minimal level of objective
justification.'" United States v. Vercher,
358 F.3d 1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2004) (citing I.N.S v.
Delgado, 466 U.S. 210, 217 (1984)). This requires only
"a showing considerably less than preponderance of the
evidence." Id. at 1263 (citingIllinois v.
Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 123 (2000)).
case, the facts show that the traffic stop was justified.
Kansas law states that a "driver of a motor vehicle
shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is
reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of
such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the
highway." K.S.A. § 8-1523. Krause testified that
Defendant was following the SUV at a distance of only two car
lengths and traveling at a speed of 70 to 75 miles per hour.
Although there is no recording that shows this conduct, the
court finds that Krause's testimony was credible and
uncontradicted. Krause further testified that a reasonable
and prudent distance would be one car length for every ten
miles per hour. At 70 miles per hour, a car should travel
approximately seven car lengths behind another car.
"officer's observation of a vehicle traveling at a
high speed and close distance from the preceding vehicle,
while not necessarily sufficient to convict, is sufficient to
provide a reasonable suspicion to effectuate a traffic
stop." Vercher, 358 F.3d at 1263. Krause's
testimony regarding what is a reasonable and prudent distance
to follow is consistent with testimony in other cases and the
Kansas Driving Handbook. Id.; United States v.
Lopez-Guzman, 246 F.Supp.2d 1155, 1158 (D. Kan. 2003)
(vehicle should be one car length away for every 10 m.p.h. or
two seconds behind), affd, 145 Fed.Appx. 627 (10th
Cir. 2005); United States v. Clay, No. 17-40119-DDC,
2018 WL 3872169, at *6 (D. Kan. Aug. 15, 2018) (vehicle
following another vehicle only two to three lengths behind on
the highway). Krause's observation provided him with
reasonable suspicion that Defendant was in violation of
Kansas law. Vercher, 358 F.3d at 1259, 1261-63
(reasonable suspicion to effectuate a traffic stop when
vehicle was only two car lengths behind the preceding
vehicle). The court concludes that Krause had reasonable
suspicion to believe that Defendant had violated K.S.A.
Krause also stopped Defendant for a violation of K.S.A.
8-1741, the court need not address the arguments raised
regarding this reason for the stop as it has determined that
the stop was lawful under § 8-1523. See United
States v. Winder, 557 F.3d 1129, 1135, n. 1 (10th Cir.
2009) (upon a finding that an officer obtained reasonable
suspicion that a defendant violated a traffic law, the court
need not consider whether there was reasonable suspicion
under another traffic law); United States v.
Callarman, 273 F.3d 1284, 1287 (10th Cir. 2001);
United States v. Acevedo, No. 16-40109-DDC, 2017 WL
3437690, at *6 (D. Kan. Aug. 10, 2Ol7)(court need not
consider whether there was reasonable suspicion that
defendant also violated § 8-1741 after finding
reasonable suspicion under § 8-1523(a)).