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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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