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Court of Appeals rules that blinking turn signal not enough to support drug conviction

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Finding that the continuous use of a turn signal without turning does not justify a traffic stop, the Indiana Court of Appeals threw out a conviction for possession of marijuana.

Rodney D. Killebrew II was stopped after he traveled through an intersection with his blinker on but did not make a turn. Kokomo Police Officer Chad VanCamp subsequently stopped Killebrew, searched his car, and found two clear plastic bags of marijuana.

During a bench trial, Killebrew was found guilty of possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor, and sentenced to one year suspended, except for time served. He appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted the evidence discovered when VanCamp pulled him over.

The state countered that the traffic stop was based on a traffic violation and that the officer’s actions fell within the community caretaking function of law enforcement. The COA rejected both arguments and reserved the conviction in Rodney Killebrew II v. State of Indiana, 34A02-1204-CR-303. 

Reviewing state statute, the COA found state law does not prohibit driving with the turn signal on. Since there was no other indication of impairment, VanCamp did not have a reasonable suspicion of lawbreaking to stop Killebrew.  

Writing for the court, Judge Patricia Riley stated, “If we were to hold that an action equally common among unimpaired drivers could justify a traffic stop, that ruling would be ripe for abuse and would not strike a reasonable balance between the government’s legitimate interest in traffic safety and an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy.”

In rejecting the community caretaking argument, the COA noted VanCamp stopped Killebrew to investigate whether he was an impaired driver. The officer’s search of the car was then an extension of a criminal investigation and not the product of an administrative caretaking function.

Pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court’s finding that the application of the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment are necessary when investigating criminal conduct, the COA stated it would not extend the community caretaking function to justify a search conducted as a result of a criminal investigation.

 

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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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