Around 1:00 p.m. on September 22, 2006, Deputy Cory
Doudican a certified canine handler with the Lyon County Sheriffs Office
was parked in his patrol vehicle, a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe, at the Kansas
turnpike exit for Emporia. He was observing traffic when he noticed a teal
green Chevrolet extended cab truck drive through the toll gate. He could
not read the back license plate on the truck as it passed his observation
point. As captured on the video recording, Deputy Doudican immediately
started following the truck with his patrol vehicle and came within two to
three car lengths of the truck. Still unable to read the state name on the
license plate from this position, the Deputy activated his emergency lights.
The truck pulled over to the shoulder of the road between mileposts 127
and 128 on I-35 in Lyon County, Kansas.
Exiting his patrol vehicle and approaching on foot, he was able
to make out that the state name on the license plate was Illinois. The
video recording shows the Deputy looking at the license plate as he walked
between the vehicles approximately within five to ten feet of the license
A photograph taken sometime later from a position directly
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behind the truck shows a black frame around the license plate obscuring
the state name and making it difficult to read. This dealers frame covers
most of the top half of the state name. Large white letters on that section
of the black frame extend over the license plate.
At the hearing, Deputy Doudican testified that the height of this
patrol vehicle may have contributed to his inability to read the state name
on the license plate. Deputy Doudican never was asked to explain his
opinion. From its subsequent viewing of the video recording of the traffic
stop and the photograph of the license plate admitted at the hearing, the
court finds nothing that visually confirms a factual basis for the deputys
opinion. The video recording never shows the hood of the patrol vehicle to
have ever blocked the deputys vision of the trucks license plate. Nor does
the video recording evidence anything about the height or angle of the
deputys viewpoint to have interfered with seeing the license plate. In fact,
the license plate on the truck appears higher off the ground than most
license plates typically mounted on passenger cars. The height of the
patrol vehicle could not have contributed substantially or significantly to the
deputys inability to read the state name on the trucks rear license plate.
As Deputy Doudican walked to the trucks passenger door, he
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smelled antifreeze and noticed a liquid coming from underneath the truck.
The deputy testified that the scope of his traffic stop now included
determining whether the vehicle could safely continue on the highway and
whether the driver was aware of this safety issue. The deputy decided to
process the traffic stop first before addressing the vehicle safety issue.
The deputy explained to the defendant the reason for the stop was the
illegible license plate.
The deputy asked for the defendants license, registration and
proof of insurance. The defendant produced an Arizona drivers license.
Because of the Illinois license plate, the deputy asked whether the
defendant owned the truck. The defendant said he was buying the truck
from a good friend in Illinois, so the deputy asked for the friends name.
The defendant answered that he knew his friends nickname only. During
this exchange, the defendant appeared excessively nervous, as the deputy
could see the defendants arm visibly shaking. The defendant told the
deputy that he was taking the truck back to his friend in Chicago, as he
didnt want the truck anymore. The deputy noticed a prepaid cell phone on
the seat next to the defendant. The defendant placed the phone in his
breast pocket after seeing the officer notice it. The deputy testified that
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prepaid phones are commonly used in drug trafficking trips because they
are untraceable. The deputy inquired about the length of the defendants
expected stay, and the defendant said one week. The deputy observed
that the single piece of small luggage in the truck was inconsistent with
such travel plans. The deputy also noticed that the defendant completely
avoided making any eye contact which is atypical behavior during a normal
traffic stop. The deputy saw a tool set on the floor board.
At this point, Deputy Doudican was suspicious that the vehicle
contained contraband based on the above following factors: the
defendants excessive nervousness and lack of eye contact, the
unlikelihood of someone with a Arizona drivers license driving a vehicle
registered in Illinois, the defendants inability to recall his friends name who
was selling him the truck, the smell of antifreeze and presence of a fluid
apparently leaking from the engine, the small amount of luggage for the
stated travel plans, and the presence of a boost phone which the defendant
placed in his front pocket upon the deputy noticing it.
The deputy radioed dispatch with the Illinois registration and
license information. Deputy Doudican then instructed the defendant to roll
up the trucks windows and step out of the truck and stand some distance
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from the truck as he would be deploying his drug-detection canine along
the trucks exterior. As he was taking his dog from the patrol vehicle,
Deputy Doudican learned from the dispatch that the Illinois registration was
not on file. While waiting for dispatch to complete the other computer
checks and to provide him with those results, the Deputy walked his dog
around the truck and observed alerts at the front and rear of the truck. The
dog alerts occurred less than four minutes after the Deputy finished
providing dispatch with the information needed for the computer check on
the defendant and the registration and license. With the assistance of a
Kansas Highway Patrol trooper, the deputy searched the truck finding
evidence of a hidden compartment in the radiator. Escorted by both
officers, the defendant drove the truck to an automobile repair shop where
the radiator was removed and five packages of cocaine were found inside
of the radiator.