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Judge rules extended traffic stop violated rights

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) – A judge has ruled that evidence involving drug charges against a Ponderay woman can’t be used because a police traffic stop turned into a 28-minute interrogation that violated Idaho case law and the U.S. Constitution.

First District Judge Barbara Buchanan ruled that the stop in October was lawful but the continued detention of Doris Nepa Hays was unconstitutionally extended, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported Tuesday.

Prosecutors are appealing Buchanan’s decision to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Hays, 39, was stopped for speeding on U.S. Highway 95 by Ponderay Officer Brian Koch, who said he suspected illegal activity due to Hays’ nervousness. He called sheriff’s Deputy Darren Osborn and a drug-sniffing dog.

Hays consented to a search of her car, which led to the discovery of meth and drug paraphernalia, police said. Hays was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.

Her attorney, Paul Vogel, contended the evidence was obtained contrary to the Fourth Amendment safeguard against unreasonable searches and seizures. Vogel said Koch’s questioning fell short of a reasonable suspicion that Hays was transporting drugs, and that Osborn was on a “fishing expedition,” court records state.

Buchanan noted that at the time Hays made her statements, Osborn was at her window and Koch had her license and registration. The judge also noted that it was nearly midnight and the K9 unit was at the scene.

“A reasonable person in the suspect’s position would have understood her position to be that she was not free to leave,” Buchanan wrote in her decision on April 5. “Therefore, Hays was in ‘custody’ for the purposes of Miranda at that time.”

As a result, she ruled that Hays made incriminating statements without first being advised of her constitutional rights- known as Miranda rights – not to make such statements. She also ruled that Hays’ statement was involuntary and more the result of coercion than free will.

Buchanan ruled that Hays should have been allowed to leave after Koch cited her for speeding. Buchanan said that is the precedent set by a 2009 Idaho Court of Appeals case that determined any inquiry beyond the initial stop was an unwarranted intrusion into a person’s privacy and liberty.

Hays pleaded not guilty Oct. 17 to a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance and requested a jury trial. A pretrial conference in the case is scheduled for Thursday, with the jury trial set to start May 13.

Information from: Bonner County (Idaho) Daily Bee, http://www.bonnercountydailybee.com

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