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Truck’s ‘excessive’ smoke justified traffic stop

April 29, 2014

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that a police officer had reasonable suspicion to pull over a driver after seeing his truck emit an “excessive” amount of smoke.

On interlocutory appeal, Tyler Veerkamp challenged the denial of his motion to suppress evidence following his stop by Greensburg Police. Officer Justin Wells was driving behind Veerkamp and pulled him over after Veerkamp’s truck spit out so much smoke that Wells said he couldn’t see Veerkamp’s left tail light. As a result of the stop, he believed Veerkamp was under the influence of alcohol and he faces a charge of Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

The trial court denied Veerkamp’s motion to suppress after finding he committed a Class C infraction by violating I.C. 9-19-8-5, which provides that “[t]he engine and power mechanism of a motor vehicle must be equipped and adjusted so as to prevent the escape of excessive fumes and smoke.” Thus, the Officer had reasonable suspicion to pull him over.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in Tyler J. Veerkamp v. State of Indiana, 16A01-1310-CR-439, in which Judge Rudolph Pyle III noted that the term “excessive” in the statute hadn’t been defined, but based on the dictionary definition, the trial court did not err in determining the smoke coming from his truck was excessive. The judges rejected Veerkamp’s claims that the stop violated his federal and state constitutional rights.

“We hold that a law enforcement officer has probable cause that Indiana Code 9-19-8-5 has been violated when fumes or smoke emanating from the engine or power mechanism of a motor vehicle completely obscure a motorist’s view of a portion of the vehicle being followed,” Pyle wrote.


 
 

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