I was stopped by a police officer outside his jurisdiction. Can he do that?

Written by: Christopher Yotz

            The short answer is, yes. However, like almost all of the answers I give on this blog it depends on several factors. An officer in Missouri can leave his jurisdiction and still act as a police officer only while in fresh pursuit.

            The Missouri statute that extends the officer’s jurisdiction while in fresh pursuit is very restrictive. If properly challenged it requires the prosecutor to show the facts necessary to meet the fresh pursuit doctrine or there may be some problems with any evidence obtained outside the jurisdiction.

            The elements the prosecutor must show are:

1.                  Fresh pursuit was initiated inside the officer’s jurisdiction.

2.                 The officer witnessed a criminal act inside the jurisdiction. (This can be as minor as a speeding violation).

3.                 The accused must be attempting to escape or at least have knowledge of pursuit. (I believe the accused has to still be in the jurisdiction when this knowledge is conveyed, but this specific question hasn’t been challenged yet).

4.                  The officer must pursue without undue delay.

5.                  The pursuit must be continuous and uninterrupted.

6.                  There must be a relation in time between the alleged criminal act inside the jurisdiction, beginning of the pursuit and apprehension of the accused.

            Some criminal charges are often, or always, based on evidence obtained after a traffic stop such as DWI, drug possession, drug paraphernalia, driving while suspended, etc. If an officer conducted a stop outside his jurisdiction resulting in these types of charges a criminal defense attorney would probably file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained after the traffic stop. So, tell your attorney if you believe the officer stopped you outside his jurisdiction. This information could be very important and it’s unlikely the officer would write this information in his report, so you need to tell your attorney about it.

            A violation of the fresh pursuit doctrine only invalidates evidence obtained after the officer leaves his jurisdiction. Evidence obtained by the officer while still in his jurisdiction such as speeding could still be admissible in court. Therefore, an officer could pursue someone outside his jurisdiction and simply write a speeding ticket as long as the officer witnessed the defendant speeding inside the jurisdiction. This is probably frowned upon by the officer’s supervisors so it doesn’t happen very often.

            Let’s look at my favorite example of a DWI stop by a Kansas City, Missouri police officer. Here the officer is following a car that he sees weaving between lanes heading east nearing the city limits. The officer continues watching and following the car and just after passing over the city limits of Kansas City he turns on his roof lights and stops the offending driver. He then conducts a DWI investigation which, as it often does, ends with the arrest the offending driver for DWI. The officer then searches the suspect’s car and finds illegal drugs and paraphernalia. In this case, the evidence of the DWI, drug possession and paraphernalia charges may be suppressed due to an improper search. However, the traffic charge of weaving may well be valid as the evidence of this offense was obtained inside the jurisdiction and would be admissible.