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Hole in tail lamp no cause for traffic stop, appeals panel rules

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An Indiana State Police trooper who pulled over a Jeep because a hole in its tail lamp emitted white light lacked probable cause to initiate the traffic stop that resulted in drunken-driving charges.

On interlocutory appeal, a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday reversed Marion Superior Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy’s denial of a motion to suppress evidence gathered in the Northside Indianapolis traffic stop. After the stop, driver Brad Kroft was charged with Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.15 or more, and Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

During a trial court hearing on his motion to suppress, Kroft presented as evidence a photo of the tail lamp that had a dime-sized hole but nonetheless emitted red light. I.C. 9-19-6-4 requires vehicles to have two tail lamps that, when lighted, emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.

In  Brad Kroft v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1211-CR-593, Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel, “Because both tail lamps worked and the tail lamp with the tiny hole was overwhelmingly red when illuminated, we find that the state trooper did not have reasonable suspicion to stop Kroft. We therefore reverse the trial court’s denial of Kroft’s motion to suppress.”

ISP Trooper Mike McCreary testified that he stopped Kroft’s vehicle because he believed that a broken tail lamp was a violation of the law. In the six-page opinion, Vaidik cited State v. Sitts, 926 N.E.2d 1118, 1120 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010): “an officer’s mistaken belief about what constitutes a violation does not amount to good faith. Such discretion is not constitutionally permissible.”

“Based on Trooper McCreary’s testimony, there is simply no evidence of any danger to motorists approaching the Krofts from behind, as the State attempts to demonstrate on appeal,” Vaidik wrote.
 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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