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Judges order possession charge dismissed

April 17, 2012

Relying on United States Supreme Court precedent, the Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the denial of a man’s motion to suppress marijuana found on him after a traffic stop. The appellate court found the officers did not reasonably believe the man was armed and dangerous to justify the pat down.

In Charles Westmoreland v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1107-CR-356, Charles Westmoreland was the passenger in a car lawfully stopped by police. The driver had warrants out in two counties, so police placed her in custody and decided to tow the car. Westmoreland didn’t have any outstanding warrants and cooperated with police. One officer performed a pat down on Westmoreland, saw a piece of a baggie sticking out of his pants, and discovered a plastic baggie with marijuana in it. Westmoreland was arrested and charged with Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

He moved to suppress the evidence, which was denied. On interlocutory appeal, the COA reversed, citing Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323 (2009). Johnson held that to justify a pat down of a driver or passenger during a traffic stop, “the police must harbor reasonable suspicion that the person subjected to the frisk is armed and dangerous.”

There was no evidence presented that Westmoreland was armed or dangerous, so officers shouldn’t have performed the pat down. The judges ordered the trial court to dismiss Westmoreland’s possession of marijuana charge.


 

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