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Court of Appeals rethinks previous opinion on traffic stops

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Citing several cases from other jurisdictions, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that brief contact with the fog line or swerving within a lane ordinarily is not sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion of impaired driving.

In Joanna S. Robinson v. State of Indiana, 20A04-1209-CR-561, Robinson was stopped after a sheriff’s deputy observed her drive off the right side of the road twice. During the traffic stop, Robinson failed three sobriety tests and admitted she had marijuana in her bra.

At trial, Robinson filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained at the traffic stop, asserting the deputy lacked reasonable suspicion to stop her because the video from the sheriff’s car showed that she stayed within her lane.

While the trial court conceded it could not conclude from the video that her car actually left the road, the court did see the vehicle veering on two occasions onto the fog line which is sufficient to justify a stop. It subsequently denied Robinson’s motion.

Robinson was convicted of operating a vehicle with a suspended license, a Class A misdemeanor; possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor; and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a Class A misdemeanor.

The COA ruled that Robinson’s brief contact with the fog line was not sufficient to provide reasonable suspicion that she was impaired. Consequently, the court found the evidence obtained from the stop should not have been admitted and Robinson’s convictions must be reversed.

At the appeal, both parties referenced Barrett v. State, 837 N.E.2d 1022 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), trans. denied (2006). Here the majority concluded that driving on the fog line was a sign of impairment and combined with a tip about drug activity, provided reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop.

However, Judge Paul Mathias dissented, arguing that briefly touching the fog line was insufficient to establish reasonable suspicion.

Writing for the court in the Robinson opinion, Judge Terry Crone, who authored the Barrett decision, agreed with the point made in the dissent.

“The Barrett majority’s analysis of the driver’s swerving onto the fog line was intertwined with analysis of the tip concerning possible drug activity, a circumstance not present (in Robinson),” Crone wrote. “Nevertheless, to the extent that Barrett may be read to stand for the proposition that briefly driving on the fog line is necessarily sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion of impaired driving, we acknowledge that it likely goes too far. Further review of the cases cited in the dissent, their progeny, and additional authorities from other jurisdictions leads us to the conclusion that brief contact with the fog line or swerving within a lane ordinarily is not sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion of impaired driving.”



 

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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