By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
The attempt to convict Seward County Commissioner Stephen “Ike” Eisenhauer of driving under the influence of alcohol, transporting an alcoholic beverage in an open container and failure to maintain a single lane, ended in a pre-trial hearing today. Due to a ruling in a case taken to the Kansas Supreme Court in September, the determination by District Court Judge Clint Peterson that Eisenhauer’s lane breaches were only minimal and incidental – rendered the traffic stop in which alcohol was ultimately found, null and void.
As a result of a March 16 traffic stop, Eisenhauer faced a trial by jury after he pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing in August.
A motion to suppress the entire stop was entered into record on Tuesday at 4:40 p.m.
Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing was continued until this morning in a effort to give special prosecutor Razmi Tahirkeli more time to review the motion.
Following the viewing of a DVD entered into as evidence by defense attorney Nathan McCaffrey, Peterson found the traffic stop was not valid as he stated the violation of the lane of traffic was only “minimal or incidental.”
“In the current case, I find that these are the inexplicable facts, Mr. Eisenhauer was on the center lane of travel, it was apparent on the DVD,” Peterson said. “The defendant did violate the integrity of the lane markers, it showed there were no apparent debris or obstacles that he would be avoiding. The road conditions were good, they were dry, clear. Deputy Taylor testified there was no wind. He was weaving subsequent to lane violations. However, the weaving did not create or cause any additional lane violations. Deputy Taylor testified that he did not know if the defendant was effecting a lane change. The deputy testified that if he was changing lanes, he was doing so without using his turn signal.”
According to Peterson, changing lanes when both lanes are going in the same direction does not require the use of a traffic signal, therefore, he said, there is no evidence to substantiate that Eisenhauer was not trying to execute a lane change.
“Regarding the defendants motion to suppress in this case, the following are my findings and facts,” Peterson said. “The question that is at the heart of the case is did Deputy Taylor have reasonable suspicion to perform a traffic stop on Mr. Eisenhauer?
“First, did Mr. Eisenhauer breach the integrity of his lane?,” Peterson asked while explaining his determination. “If he did so, was it incidental or minimal? And if it wasn’t incidental or minimal, was there some other lawful reason for the breach?
“As noted, the defendant did in fact violate the integrity of his lane,” he explained. “However, I find that the state failed to show that the breach was more than minimal or incidental. Even if it was more than incidental, minimal, I cannot find that there was not another reason for this breach specifically. I cannot find that the defendant was not just concluding a lane change. It is not clear from what I can see, that that is not exactly what is happening. Therefore, the stop did not comply with K.S.A. § 8-1522 subparagraph A. Therefore, the stop was not valid and all evidence obtained thereafter is suppressed.”
Due to the fact the state Supreme Court decision changing the interpretation of such traffic infractions occurred in September, such findings still rendered the March traffic stop invalid. Peterson did add that at the time of the stop, Deputy Aaron Taylor may in fact have performed a valid traffic stop.
“I would like to take this opportunity to point out that at the time that this event occurred back in March 2009,” Peterson said. “This very well may have been a lawful stop. However, the Supreme Court has handed down a decision this past September and basically the Supreme Court does effectively change the laws of Kansas, at least the interpretation of the laws of Kansas. This change or clarification retroactively renders the stop unlawful therefore, evidence that was obtained after the stop is suppressed.”
Peterson asked Tahirkeli if he would like to pursue any other charges or cancel jury trial following his decision to suppress any evidence to be obtained after the stop.
“Your honor,” Tahirkeli said, “That makes it impossible for the state to proceed in this case.”
Tahirkeli very well may appeal the decision made by Peterson today. However, at this time Peterson’s decision will stand.
“Jury trial previously scheduled for January 14, 2010 is cancelled,” Peterson concluded. “This case is dismissed without prejudice.”