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Statute on car window tint not void for vagueness

September 12, 2012

The Howard County man who argued that the statute dealing with the tint of car windows is void for vagueness lost his appeal, so the drug evidence found on him during a traffic stop can be allowed at trial, the Court of Appeals ruled.

In Dezmon Gaines v. State of Indiana, 34A05-1201-CR-21, Dezmon Gaines faces charges of Class D felonies possession of cocaine, dealing in marijuana, and possession of marijuana. The car Gaines was riding in was stopped because it may have matched the description of a car associated with a missing woman. The police initiated the traffic stop based on illegally tinted windows.

When Kokomo police officer Bruce Rood approached the car, he was unable to tell how many people were inside until the window was rolled down. A strong odor of marijuana was coming from the car. Gaines was in the backseat and appeared to be chewing something. He was removed from the car and Rood placed a Tazer in the small of Gaines’ back and ordered him to spit out the object in his mouth or he would be tazed. The baggie contained a substance that looked like rock cocaine. Gaines also had marijuana in his pocket.

 Gaines tried to have the evidence suppressed, but the trial court denied it. On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The judges rejected Gaines’ claim that Indiana Code 9-19-19-4(c) is void for vagueness because it “does not state if identification of race, gender and number of passengers is sufficient or if window tinting must be such that every feature of every person can be seen.”

The statute does delineate a scientifically objective measurement for compliance, thereby precluding any arbitrariness or discriminatory enforcement by police, Judge Patricia Riley wrote. In addition, Rood testified that he couldn’t see through the windshield into the car.

There was also probable cause for the warrantless search of Gaines because officers believed that Gaines was attempting to swallow a narcotic or contraband when they initiated the traffic stop. Rood did not use unreasonable force by ordering Gaines to spit out the contraband under the threat of being tazed, the judges held. No physical force was used, there was no risk to Gaines physical safety and there was no intrusion on Gaines’ bodily integrity by uttering a threat, Riley wrote.

Judge Terry Crone concurred in result.



 

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