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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 just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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