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Court addresses fine line between traffic stop, arrest

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a man’s drunk driving and marijuana possession convictions based on police officer conduct, finding that the officer shouldn’t have held a gun and handcuffed him during what could have been a legitimate traffic stop.

A unanimous three-judge panel ruled today in Daniel C. Reinhart v. State of Indiana, No. 57A03-1002-CR-84, which comes from Noble Superior Court. Daniel Reinhart was arrested following an August 2008 encounter with police involving a sheriff’s deputy who’d pulled him over in the early morning hours. At one point, Reinhart pulled his jeep into a driveway where the deputy was sitting with his radar gun and began yelling at the officer through the window. Another man was in the vehicle, and the deputy ordered Reinhart to back up after being concerned about his own safety. He then called for backup and followed Reinhart – witnessing him crossing into other traffic lanes.

The deputy pulled Reinhart over, drew his weapon, and ordered Reinhart to exit his vehicle and get on his knees with his hands on the back of his head. The man stayed in that position for about 90 seconds, and then was ordered to lie flat on his stomach for a pat-down search that revealed a glass marijuana pipe and a baggie of marijuana in his pocket. Officers also noticed there was a smell of alcohol coming from Reinhart, and that he had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. They handcuffed and arrested him.

During a bench trial in November 2009, the trial judge overruled Reinhart’s objection about the search and admitted the evidence, resulting in a conviction of felony drunk driving and misdemeanor marijuana possession. But the appellate court disagreed with that result.

Though a valid Terry stop allows for officers to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety, the deputy in this case displayed what the appellate judges considered excessive conduct that converted that Terry stop and allowable activity into what constitutes an arrest requiring probable cause.

“While we are mindful of the significant danger faced by police officers during traffic stops, we must balance the interests of officer safety with the privacy interests protected by the Fourth Amendment in requiring law enforcement to use the least intrusive means necessary to investigate a traffic stop,” Judge Terry Crone wrote, citing Wilson v. State, 745 N.E.2d 789, 792 (Ind. 2001). “Under the facts presented, this was more than a minimal deprivation of Reinhart’s liberty of movement necessary to inform (the deputy’s) suspicion that Reinhart was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The police officers’ behavior in this case exceeded the scope of a Terry stop and became an arrest without probable cause.”

Because police didn’t have probable cause to search Reinhart, the retrieved marijuana and drug material should not have been admitted, the appellate court ruled.
 

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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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