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COA reverses trial court in OWI case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a trial court’s grant of a truck driver’s motion to suppress evidence, holding that police did not violate his rights in an unusual traffic stop.

In State of Indiana v. Johnnie S. McCaa, No. 56A04-1107-CR-341, police stopped Johnnie McCaa, the driver of a semitrailer, after receiving reports that he had been driving erratically. But because of a pre-existing crash, when police pulled over McCaa, his truck was blocking the only open lane of traffic.

Newton County Sherriff’s Sgt. Shannon Cothran questioned McCaa about his driving, and McCaa said he had been driving erratically because he spilled a can of soda in his lap. Cothran did not observe any obvious signs of intoxication, but because McCaa was blocking the roadway, Cothran ordered him to drive his truck to a nearby gas station. Cothran and another officer followed him, and saw McCaa drive off the road three times en route to the gas station.

McCaa argued that by asking him to drive to the gas station, police created a situation to enhance probable cause to believe McCaa was intoxicated. At the gas station, while his breath test showed no alcohol in his blood, he failed standard field sobriety tests. Cothran took McCaa to a hospital for urinalysis, the details of which were not included in the appeal.

The COA wrote that due to the fact McCaa was blocking the only open lane of traffic, it was not unreasonable to ask him to move his vehicle, nor was it unsafe, as police followed him. It therefore reversed the trial court’s grant of McCaa’s motion to suppress evidence obtained after the initial stop.

Judge Michael Barnes issued a separate opinion and wrote that he “begrudgingly concurred” with the majority opinion, stating: “No mistake should be made that law enforcement officers could or should allow a person to drive a vehicle, observe the driver, and buttress their probable cause because of these observations. These circumstances are the proverbial ‘once in a lifetime,’ fortunately for police.”

 

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  1. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  2. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  3. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  4. Different rules for different folks....

  5. I would strongly suggest anyone seeking mediation check the experience of the mediator. There are retired judges who decide to become mediators. Their training and experience is in making rulings which is not the point of mediation.

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