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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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