SD Supreme Court reaffirms “relatively low standard” - KOTA Territory News

SD Supreme Court reaffirms “relatively low standard” for law enforcement to justify stopping vehicle


Gary Jensen
Beardsley, Jensen and Von Wald

This month, the South Dakota Supreme Court reaffirmed that law enforcement must meet only a "relatively low standard of reasonable suspicion" to justify stopping a vehicle.

In South Dakota v. Dahl, 2012 SD 8, the Court upheld the third-offense DUI conviction of Mr. Dahl who was stopped by law enforcement because he  violated the statute requiring a vehicle executing a right turn to drive as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb. 

According to the officer, Mr. Dahl crossed over the dotted white line separating the two east-bound lanes of the four-lane street as he prepared to make his right turn.
Our Court repeated the basic principles applicable to determining whether a law enforcement stop of vehicle is warranted.
1.    "An investigatory traffic stop must be ‘based on objectively reasonable and articulable suspicion that criminal activity has occurred or is occurring.'"

2.    In determining what constitutes "reasonable suspicion," it is a "common sense and non-technical concept dealing with the practical considerations of everyday life."

3.    "Reasonable suspicion to stop must be based on ‘specific and articulable facts which taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant [the] intrusion.'"

4.    One must look at the "‘totality of the circumstances' of each case to see whether the detaining officer has a ‘particularized and objective basis' for suspecting legal wrongdoing."

5.    "The stop may not be the product of mere whim, caprice or idle curiosity."
In the end, the Court stated:  
The turn appeared to be considerably wider than necessary under the circumstances and created the reasonable inference that the driver of the vehicle might be impaired.  This was a specific and articulable fact that Officer Koval identified as a basis for his stop, rather than hunch or curiosity.  While the evidence may not have been substantial, it was sufficient to satisfy the relatively low standard of reasonable suspicion.

In other words, it takes very little for law enforcement to justify stopping your vehicle.  Driving accordingly.


E-mail Gary is intended as general information on legal issues affecting us all.  This information should not be relied upon in any particular case and should never be used in lieu of consulting with an attorney.

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