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COA finds officer had no reason to make woman sit in squad car after stop

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 A police officer was not justified in requesting that the woman he pulled over for an expired driver’s license sit in his squad car while he decided how to proceed in the matter, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Bartholomew County Sgt. Kriston Weisner pulled over Stephanie Lucas’ car after running her license plate number and finding out her driver’s license was expired. She pulled into a gas station and was smoking a cigarette when the sergeant approached her car. A couple of minutes after he stopped her, Weisner requested Lucas come to his patrol car to “review the information and decide what we are going to do.” She complied and as they spoke about her expired license, he smelled alcohol on her breath. Lucas complied to field tests and a certified chemical breath test, which showed a BAC of 0.10.

She was charged with various drunken driving charges and a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, and she filed a motion to suppress. She claimed she was subjected to an investigatory detention that exceeded its permissible scope. The trial court denied her motion.

Judge Patricia Riley pointed out that Weisner could not identify one reason related to the initial purpose of the stop for needing Lucas to sit in his patrol vehicle. He even admitted that he could have accomplished his objective at the side of her vehicle. He testified he did not see Lucas speed, improperly change lanes or perform any other erratic driving. He did not smell any alcohol on her until she sat in his car and she didn’t show signs of intoxication.
 
“While there is no bright-line test for evaluating whether an investigatory stop satisfies the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment, an investigative stop must be accomplished using the least intrusive means readily available absent some particular circumstance justifying an additional intrusion,” Riley wrote for the majority that included Judge Margret Robb. “Here, the traffic stop was more intrusive than authorized for a permissible investigatory stop because Sergeant Weisner did not articulate a legitimate reason as to why he could not complete his investigation standing alongside Lucas’ vehicle. As a result, suppressing the evidence obtained after Sergeant Weisner unreasonably moved Lucas to his squad car is necessary as a means of deterring police officers from impinging the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment in the future.

Judge Cale Bradford concurred in result in a separate opinion. He did not believe the sergeant’s request that Lucas sit in his patrol car violated her Fourth Amendment rights, but under the circumstances of this case, Lucas was subjected to an illegal custodian interrogation without first being advised of her rights.

The case is Stephanie Lucas v. State of Indiana, 03A01-1309-CR-389.
 

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  • A Boy Named Kriston
    Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?
  • man bites dog
    reading an appeal these days which actually upholds the fourth amendment is kind of a man bites dog types story.... GOOD DECISION!

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  1. I need an experienced attorney to handle a breach of contract matter. Kindly respond for more details. Graham Young

  2. I thought the slurs were the least grave aspects of her misconduct, since they had nothing to do with her being on the bench. Why then do I suspect they were the focus? I find this a troubling trend. At least she was allowed to keep her law license.

  3. Section 6 of Article I of the Indiana Constitution is pretty clear and unequivocal: "Section 6. No money shall be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious or theological institution."

  4. Video pen? Nice work, "JW"! Let this be a lesson and a caution to all disgruntled ex-spouses (or soon-to-be ex-spouses) . . . you may think that altercation is going to get you some satisfaction . . . it will not.

  5. First comment on this thread is a fitting final comment on this thread, as that the MCBA never answered Duncan's fine question, and now even Eric Holder agrees that the MCBA was in material error as to the facts: "I don't get it" from Duncan December 1, 2014 5:10 PM "The Grand Jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony according to this article and they made a decision that no crime occurred. On what basis does the MCBA conclude that their decision was "unjust"? What special knowledge or evidence does the MCBA have that the Grand Jury hearing this matter was unaware of? The system that we as lawyers are sworn to uphold made a decision that there was insufficient proof that officer committed a crime. How can any of us say we know better what was right than the jury that actually heard all of the the evidence in this case."

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