KS: Excessive force in unnecessary stop by PIT maneuver led to death of passenger which is suppressed

Defendant refused to stop for a broken windshield infraction, and he fled. The officer PITted his car, and the passenger died. Defendant was charged with murder for the passenger’s death. The trial court held that the seizure resulting in the death was unreasonable, and that finding is supported by the record. The exclusionary rule is applied because there is a causal connection between the use of excessive force and the passenger’s death. State v. Cline, 2023 Kan. App. LEXIS 8 (Mar. 3, 2023):

The facts and circumstances of this case demonstrate that the exclusion of evidence because of Dobler’s conduct falls within the purpose of the exclusionary rule. Based on Dobler’s own testimony, his actions were not an isolated incident; he had used TVI maneuvers “an abundance of times” and had received reprimands for violating policies about pursuits. As Cline notes, these policies and reprimands did nothing to influence Dobler’s actions. While the fact that Dobler was fired from the KHP makes it unlikely that he will cause this situation to recur as a KHP trooper, the record reflects that Dobler has simply moved on to a different law enforcement agency and was employed by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the suppression hearing. Dobler’s actions were part of a pattern of intentional conduct—as such, exclusion of the evidence derived from his unreasonable seizure would serve its intended remedial purpose.

More importantly, law enforcement officers from all agencies frequently deal with vehicle pursuits in which they may need to apprehend fleeing suspects. Encounters like the one between Dobler and Cline will likely happen again. Law enforcement officers need to know the parameters for properly using a TVI maneuver and the consequences of engaging in improper and highly dangerous car chases. Suppression of the evidence removes the incentive for officers such as Dobler to disregard policies and perform dangerous maneuvers simply to bring a hastier end to an ill-advised pursuit. The exclusion of evidence in circumstances like this one—although a drastic remedy—will likely deter future unconstitutional misconduct during car chases.

Perhaps most importantly, we have a direct causal connection between Dobler’s use of excessive force and the evidence Cline seeks to suppress supporting the felony murder charge. While it is plainly true that Cline is not without fault in these unfortunate events, Dobler’s use of the TVI maneuver caused the car crash and directly led to Benz’ death. For all these reasons, we conclude the district court did not err in applying the exclusionary rule to suppress all evidence following the seizure.

This entry was posted in Excessive force, Exclusionary rule. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.