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Transfer granted to traffic-stop cases

November 7, 2008

The Indiana Supreme Court has granted transfer to three cases dealing with traffic stops.

In Thomas A. Armfield v. State of Indiana, No. 29A02-0802-CR-101, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Thomas Armfield's conviction of operating a vehicle after a lifetime suspension, ruling the trial court didn't err in admitting evidence from a traffic stop during Armfield's trial. The police officer made the stop of Armfield's car based on a random license plate check revealing Armfield was the owner. Previous caselaw has ruled that knowledge that a registered owner of a car who has a suspended license is enough to constitute reasonable suspicion for an officer to initiate a traffic stop.

In Damen Holly v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0711-CR-930, the Court of Appeals overturned Damen Holly's drug conviction because the traffic stop that led to his arrest was unconstitutional. The appellate court ruled the officer who stopped the car Holly was driving didn't have reasonable suspicion there was criminal activity going on in the car. Holly was originally pulled over after the officer ran a license plate check of the car to show it was registered to a woman.

In Kail Fortson v. State of Indiana, No. 82A04-0801-CR-16, the appellate court reversed Fortson's conviction of receiving stolen property because the judges believed the circumstances of the case didn't support a reasonable inference Fortson had knowledge the car he was driving was stolen. Fortson was charged with receiving stolen property after police pulled over the car he was driving that matched the description and license plate number of a car reported stolen. Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented based on the evidence that Fortson was found in possession of the truck about two miles away from where it was stolen just a few hours earlier. The jury that heard the case rejected his explanation that he borrowed the car, she wrote, and based on the totality of the circumstances, she would affirm his conviction.

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