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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. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

  2. I have met some highly placed bureaucrats who vehemently disagree, Mr. Smith. This is not your father's time in America. Some ideas are just too politically incorrect too allow spoken, says those who watch over us for the good of their concept of order.

  3. Lets talk about this without forgetting that Lawyers, too, have FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND ASSOCIATION

  4. Baer filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit on April 30 2015. When will this be decided? How many more appeals does this guy have? Unbelievable this is dragging on like this.

  5. They ruled there is no absolute right to keep a license, whether it be for a lifetime or a short period of time. So with that being said, this state taught me at the age of 15 how to obtain that license. I am actually doing something that I was taught to do, I'm not breaking the law breaking the rules and according to the Interstate Compact the National Interstate Compact...driving while suspended is a minor offense. So, do with that what you will..Indiana sucks when it comes to the driving laws, they really and truly need to reevaluate their priorities and honestly put the good of the community first... I mean, what's more important the pedophile drug dealer or wasting time and money to keep us off the streets?

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