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Appellate court rules traffic stop legal

December 8, 2010

A police officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the car of a man who parked illegally in a handicapped spot after the car made it on to the street, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Dustin Haynes appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. He was convicted of Class C felony operating a motor vehicle while privileges are forfeited for life after Gas City Chief of Police Kirk McCollum saw Haynes’ car parked in a handicapped spot without a proper permit. McCollum was patrolling a parking lot and drove by the car, which didn’t have a handicap license plate. He also didn’t see a permit hanging from the rearview mirror.

When he drove by again to verify there wasn’t a permit lying on the dashboard or another visible area, Haynes backed out of the spot and left the parking lot. The officer followed and pulled him over on the street. Haynes admitted to not having the proper handicap placard and being a habitual traffic violator with his driving privileges currently suspended.

Haynes claimed McCollum had no reasonable suspicion to stop him because he didn’t commit any traffic violations. The officer had a chance to give him a parking ticket while Haynes was in the lot, but didn’t, so he had no reasonable grounds to stop him later.

“We find that Officer McCollum had sufficient basis to detain Haynes pursuant to I.C. § 34-28-5-3, which allows a law enforcement officer to detain an individual believed to have committed an infraction. I.C. § 34-28-5-3 further permits a law enforcement officer to ascertain the individual’s identity,” wrote Judge Patricia Riley in Dustin Haynes v. State of Indiana, No. 27A02-1003-CR-311. “Because Officer McCollum had probable cause to believe Haynes had committed an infraction, his detention of Haynes was reasonable and did not violate either the state or federal constitutions.”

Haynes cited State v. Medlar, 638 N.E.2d 1105, 1105-06 (Ohio Ct. App. 1994), and State v. Holmes, 569 N.W.2d 181 (Minn. 1997), to support his argument, but the judges ruled under the analysis in Holmes, McCullom had probable cause to stop Haynes’ car. McCullom personally saw Haynes commit the violation, and under Holmes, he was allowed to stop Haynes to enforce the violation because Haynes was driving off before he could issue the ticket.

Although the facts of Holmes are distinguishable, the analysis of law is applicable, wrote Judge Riley. As such, McCollum had reasonable suspicion to stop Haynes and therefore the stop was legal.
 

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