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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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