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Appellate court upholds motion to suppress after traffic stop

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The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a trial judge that a police officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver believed to be intoxicated.

In State of Indiana v. Robert Rhodes, No. 49A05-1012-CR-818, the state challenged the grant of Robert Rhodes' motion to suppress following his arrest on an operating while intoxicated charge. Rhodes drove a friend to an impound lot to recover his car. While there, the company employee believed Rhodes was intoxicated and called police officer Larry Giordano, who often worked off-duty for Angie’s List, which was across the street from the impound lot.

Giordano testified he saw Rhodes leave and followed him. Rhodes didn’t signal properly and made an abrupt left into the parking lot of Angie’s List, so Giordano conducted the traffic stop. Rhodes contended that Giordano turned on his emergency lights as soon as he began following Rhodes, so he signaled to turn into the lot to stop.

Although the trial judge wavered between two grounds for rejecting the state’s arguments as to the legitimacy of the traffic violation, he ultimately granted Rhodes’ motion to dismiss.

The state argued that the officer had two reasons to lawfully stop Rhodes – Giordano saw Rhodes commit a traffic violation by not signaling more than 200 feet before turning, and that the officer had reasonable suspicion that Rhodes was operating while intoxicated.

But the state failed to show that compliance with the statute was possible under the circumstances, wrote Judge Terry Crone. Giordano estimated that Rhodes turned on his signal about 150 feet before turning, but the record doesn’t say whether there was at least 200 feet between the place where he turned on to the street from the impound lot and the place where he turned onto the Angie’s List property.

On the reasonable suspicion argument, the record is vague as to what the tow employee told Giordano regarding Rhodes or his vehicle. One other person also left the lot at the same time as Rhodes. Even if the employee’s tip was sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion that someone was driving while intoxicated, there isn’t evidence that Giordano had any basis to conclude that person was Rhodes, wrote Judge Crone.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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