The Trial Court Erred by Denying Motion to Suppress the drug-related evidence seized during a routine traffic stop because its discovery was the product of a custodial detainment which extended beyond the scope of the original purpose of the traffic stop

Turley v. Commonwealth (Ky., 2013) 2011-SC-000276-MR May 23, 2013

As grounds for relief Appellant contends, principally, that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the drug-related evidence seized during a routine traffic stop because its discovery was the product of a custodial detainment which extended beyond the scope of the original purpose of the traffic stop in violation of the Fourth Amendment. See Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500 (1983) (“[A]n investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.”).

Because we conclude that the evidence was discovered after the purpose of the traffic stop had concluded, and no exception applied so as to permit the police officer to extend his encounter with Appellant beyond that time, we hold that the trial court erred in failing to suppress the illegally obtained drug evidence. Accordingly, we reverse Appellant’s conviction and sentence and remand for additional proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Moreover, in situations as we address here, many citizens do not perceive or understand a transition from a Terry-detention to a consensual encounter. Those who do must then make a decision that, as this case illustrates, can confound lawyers and judges: does the motorist risk being charged with the crime of resisting arrest or escape by assuming he is at liberty to leave and then doing so? Or, does he remain in place and create the appearance that he has consented to the continued intrusion upon his liberty? The stakes are too high for this Court to condone a police practice that fosters ambiguity about whether a suspect is “in custody.” Our view in this regard is consistent with the legislative purpose of KRS 431.025, which requires an officer making an arrest to “inform the person about to be arrested of the intention to arrest him, and of the offense for which he is being arrested.

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