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7th Circuit affirms denial of motion to suppress search of car

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the denial of an automobile passenger’s motion to suppress evidence found in the car during a traffic stop, which led to his eventual pleading guilty to a heroin offense. The judges found no error by the District judge in crediting the testimony of the police officer who pulled the vehicle over because he believed the speed it was traveling and distance to the car in front of it violated Indiana law.

John Peters III was the passenger in a maroon Toyota Scion that was traveling closely behind a white GMC Denali. A Greenfield police officer initiated a traffic stop of the Denali, with Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Ernstes initiating a stop of the Scion. Ernstes estimated the Scion was between 50 and 75 feet behind the Denali and traveling around 60 mph. He believed the combination of this high speed and short distance allowed less than two seconds of breaking time between the vehicles, and thus violated I.C. 9-21-8-14 by following too closely.

Ernstes smelled burnt marijuana when Peters rolled his window down and saw what he believed to be marijuana on Peters’ clothing. The deputy decided to search the car and found a marijuana stem in the car as well as a drill with a sticky substance on it. That substance matched that found on the screws of a panel concealing a kilogram of heroin in the Denali.

Peters moved to suppress the evidence found during the traffic stop, but later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin. The motion was denied.

The 7th Circuit concluded that Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson did not err in concluding that probable cause existed to believe that a driver followed another too closely under Indiana law when fewer than two seconds of breaking time separated the vehicles. Ernstes testified that he used the two-second rule described in the Indiana Driver’s Manual in determining a safe following distance regarding how long it takes for a car to break depending on its speed.

“[T]he district court committed no error in crediting the testimony of an experienced police officer that after observing two cars traveling in tandem for a period of time, he credibly believed that the trailing car was approximately seventy-five feet behind the lead car at a speed of approximately sixty miles per hour. If an officer knowing these facts could reasonably conclude that this combination of speed and distance violated Indiana law, that is all that is necessary to support probable cause,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote in United States of America v. John A. Peters III, 12-3830.

The judges also upheld the search, noting they have previously held that a police officer who smells marijuana coming from a car has probable cause to search that car.
 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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