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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. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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