The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday narrowed the scope of police searches at traffic stops in the state, saying its ruling was prompted by a similar decision from the nation's highest court.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday narrowed the scope of police searches at traffic stops in the state, saying its ruling was prompted by a similar decision from the nation's highest court.


The unanimous decision declared unconstitutional a law allowing officers to search a vehicle for evidence of a possible crime, rather than for evidence to support the arrest resulting from the traffic stop.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that police need a warrant to search the vehicle of a person arrested if they pose no safety threat to officers. In Arizona v. Gant, the court also said searches are allowed if the car's passenger area is within reach of a suspect or there is reason to believe there is evidence of the crime that led to the arrest.


"It's just a natural progression. This gets the state in line with the Supreme Court ruling and removes any legal ambiguities," said Kyle Smith, Topeka Police Department legal adviser.


The state court's ruling comes from a 2006 Lyon County case during which a deputy sheriff arrested the occupant of a vehicle, Randy Henning, on an outstanding traffic warrant. With Henning and driver Kelly Zabriskie on a sidewalk, the deputy opened the center console and found drug paraphernalia inside a flashlight case.


Both Henning and Zabriskie were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia but the case didn't go to trial because a district judge suppressed the evidence. The Kansas Court of Appeals struck down the decision to suppress, but was in turn reversed by the Supreme Court.


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