Public Safety Exception

Public Safety Exception

Many criminal charges are the result of a traffic stop, leading to police finding drugs, evidence of impairment, or other criminal evidence. As a criminal defense lawyer, one of the first steps we take in evaluating the potential defenses of a case is researching the reason for the stop in the first place. Generally, an officer must be able to articulate reasonable suspicion of a crime before he can pull someone over. Otherwise, it's a Violation of the Fourth Amendment to Constitution of the United States. Ideally, such illegally seized evidence shall be excluded and not used against the Defendant. The attorney in the prosecutor's office will likely make an attempt to keep the evidence in and used against you.

For example, sometimes the stop is justified even without reasonable suspicion. In City of Salina v. Ragnoni 42 Kan.App.2d 405, 213 P.3d 441 (2009), the Court allowed the stop under a safety stop and "hot sheet" exception. In that case, the defendant's ex-wife reported to law enforcement that the defendant had called and said "say goodbye to the kids." When the police went to defendant's home and did not locate anyone, they then made an entry on the police department's "hot sheet." This hot sheet instructed all police

officers to attempt to locate the defendant and determine if he was suicidal. The defendant wasn't located until three days later, and it was determined that he was not suicidal. Rather, he was charged with DUI. The defendant was convicted in the city court in Salina, but appealed the to the district court. The district court rules that the officer was not justified to stop the vehicle based on a public safety stop. The City of Salina appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case back to the district court. The Kansas Court of Appeals deemed that the stop was legitimate and that the evidence should not be excluded. They said that law enforcement may stop an automobile to ensure the safety of the driver without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The tip from the x-wife was sufficient, according to the Court. According to the Court, community caretaking is an important role of police and they are allowed to take reasonable steps to investigate reports regarding safety.

Categories: Criminal law
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