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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. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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