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COA: Driving to avoid potholes isn’t enough to stop car

April 24, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the suppression of evidence in a man’s drunken-driving case, finding police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull the man over because he was driving left of center on a county road to avoid poor road conditions.

In State of Indiana v. Darrell Keck, 67A01-1208-CR-362, the state claimed based on I.C. 9-21-8-2(a) – “all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway” – police had reasonable suspicion to pull over Darrell Keck on a county road in Putnam County after seeing him drive slower than usual and left of center.

Portions of the road are covered in gravel and the officer recalled at least two potholes in the road. The officer stopped Keck after seeing him drive for about a half mile in the center portion of the road. The stop led to charges of Class C misdemeanors operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more. Keck filed a motion to suppress, claiming the road conditions were so bad he could not drive safely on the right side of the road. His passenger testified as to the terrible condition of the road.

On appeal, Keck claimed that I.C. 9-21-8-2(b) applies, which allows for someone to drive “as close to practicable on the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway” when a person is driving at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place under conditions then existing.

“There was evidence before the trial court to support a conclusion subsection (b) applies and Keck was not in violation,” Judge Melissa May wrote, pointing to the officer’s testimony and the testimony of the passenger.
 

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