Kansas Supreme Court Ruling – Smells Like a Good Decision

Imagine this scenario. You just dropped off your buddy at his house and you are driving home. It was a fun night—or at least until the very end. You had a good time until your friend got a little tipsy and tried to take his drink into your vehicle, spilling it over the car floor. You had agreed earlier in the evening to be the designated driver and left the bar without having a single drink. But thanks to your friend, your car smells like a bottle of whiskey. On your way home, you are pulled over by a police officer for failing to come to a complete stop before making a right hand turn. The officer smells the alcohol emanating from your vehicle. You can tell from the officer’s questions that he thinks that you have been drinking and wants to search you and your vehicle. You think to yourself, can my vehicle really be searched, just because my friend spilled his drink in my car?

Well, in March, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of State v. Stevenson, which in part, sheds some light on this type of scenario. Both state and federal law allow police to search a vehicle that has been pulled over on a traffic stop, without a warrant, if the totality of the circumstances indicate to the officer, that there is a fair probability that the vehicle contains either evidence of a crime or contraband. In the case of Stevenson, a man in a SUV was pulled over for a traffic stop for a turn signal violation. Upon approaching the vehicle the two officers observed a strong smell of alcohol. One officer had the man exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. The other officer decided to search the SUV believing there was an open container violation, as he observed a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle, despite the fact that the man was not inside the vehicle. The officer, through his search of the vehicle found what he believed to be spilled wine on the floor of vehicle and a closed partially full container of wine in the back of the vehicle, along with methamphetamines. Although the man was not charged with DUI, he was charged with possession of illegal drugs.

At trial the man’s attorney argued that the search was illegal. The Supreme Court in its ruling agreed with the man’s attorney. The court reasoned that since alcohol is a legal substance, a strong odor of alcohol did not give the officers the right to search the man’s vehicle. This case is significant in that it gives motorists in Kansas some clarification as to the law regarding unlawful searches. The case also highlights why it is so important to hire an experienced Kansas DUI defense attorney if you have been charged with an alcohol or drug related offense. Only a seasoned Kansas DUI defense attorney can make sure that the police follow the law and present all of your defenses.

Contact the Whitman Law Offices Now!

If you have been arrested and charged with DUI or another drug or alcohol related offense, you need the counsel of an experienced Kansas DUI Defense Attorney. For almost 40 years, the Whitman Law Offices has been aggressively defending DUI clients both in and outside of the courtroom. Contact the Whitman Law Offices today at (785) 843-9460 to schedule your free and confidential consultation. It is imperative that if you have been charged with a DUI to seek counsel immediately. If required, we can make arrangements to visit you in jail. Our seasoned DUI Defense Attorneys look forward to providing you with superior legal services.


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