No Probable Cause To Arrest When SFST Done at Police Station

Kansas DUI law is interesting and complex. On one hand, the Constitution protects individual's liberties. On the other, the Court in DUI cases seem to allow police officers more flexibility when investigating drunk driving cases. As a DUI lawyer, it's critical to evaluate each specific case regarding the stop, field sobriety tests, and other evidence gathered during a drinking and driving investigation. It can lead to potential suppression of evidence as it did in the case City of Norton v. Wonderly 38 Kan.App.2d 797, 172 P.3d 1205, (2007) rev. den.

In that case, police did the SFSTs at the police station, which raised Constitutional issues.

There had been a call to police from a witness who allegedly saw someone driving a white pickup truck driving erratically. Within 35 minutes, that truck was stopped by police after they matched the tags with the report. The officer pulled the driver, Wonderly, over, even though the officer did not observe any traffic infractions while following him for three minutes. Upon the stop, the officer smelled alcohol. Wonderly admitted to drinking and his speech was decent. Wonderly provided his license without any difficulty and was able to appropriately exit his vehicle and go to the back of the police car. He took a PBT, which showed his BAC was over .08. However, the PBT was eventually suppressed as the officer didn't wait 15 minutes before administering it, as required by the manufacturer. Rather than have Wonderly perform the standardized field sobriety tests out in the field, he brought Wonderly to the station, because there was poor weather. Wonderly was therefore placed in handcuffs and transported to the sheriff's station, which was two minutes away.

Wonderly's attorney raised several legal issues. First, he argued that the stop was not legitimate as the officer did not see any traffic infractions. However, the Court allowed the stop due to the specific information provided by the reporting parties.

The second legal issue which was raised, was that there was no proable cause to make an arrest. This was the legal issue which had real steam in this case. Alas, the PBT shouldn't have been considered as it wasn't administered correctly and there were no observed traffic infractions. Furthermore, the SFST's were conducted AFTER the arrest. It should be noted that whether or not the Defendant was actually arrested was actually a litigated issue. However, the Court of Appeals determined that a reasonable person in Wonderly's position would have believed they were under arrest. When you are handcuffed and taken to a station, wouldn't you?!? The court then concluded, that without the SFST evidence which was conducted at the station, there was no probable cause to arrest Wonderly.