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COA: Traffic stop allowed in private parking lot

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial of man’s motion to suppress, finding Indiana Code doesn’t bar law enforcement from investigating violations in private parking lots even if there isn’t a contractual agreement with the property owner to allow officers to enforce traffic ordinances.

The judges took Donald L. Pruitt v. State of Indiana, No. 55A01-0912-CR-597, on interlocutory appeal, in which Pruitt argued a traffic stop after an officer saw him driving in a bar’s parking lot without his headlights on was invalid because it happened in a private business parking lot. He claimed since there was no contract between the property owner and police as defined in Indiana Code sections 9-21-18-1 to -15, the officer couldn’t him stop him. The officer determined Pruitt’s driving privileges had been suspended. He was charged with operating a motor vehicle after driving privileges had been suspended for life as a Class C felony.

The appellate court disagreed with Pruitt’s reasoning because the code says a local governmental unit and private business property or shopping center owners may contract to allow the unit to regulate parking and traffic.

“We do not read this statute or any other provision of Indiana Code sections 9-21-18-1 to 9-21-18-15 to bar law enforcement officers from investigating violations on private property such as shopping centers in the absence of a contractual agreement with each and every such property,” wrote Senior Judge Patrick Sullivan.

The Court of Appeals also found that I.C. Section 9-30-10-17 isn’t explicitly limited in application to those who drive on public roads. The legislature also chose not to include such limiting language, which indicates that the danger to the public from a habitual traffic offender driving without a license is as great in a private parking lot as it is on public highways, the judge continued.

Pruitt also argued that the code that regulates headlights is only applicable to cars driving on public highways. Although that is the case, the statute doesn’t necessarily imply that a driver is always allowed to drive without headlights on private property, the court concluded.

“Such a reading of the statute would run counter to the policy of facilitating safe automobile traffic. Furthermore, the statute neither states nor implies that an officer is barred from stopping a driver for driving without headlights on private property,” Senior Judge Sullivan wrote.     
 

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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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