ILNews

Improperly fastened seatbelt can lead to stop

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Front-seat passengers in cars must have their seatbelts properly fastened when the car is in motion, meaning the lap belt must be fastened and the shoulder belt across his or her shoulder, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

The appellate court examined Indiana Code Section 9-19-10-2 to come to the conclusion that to avoid being stopped by a police officer for a seatbelt violation, a person must have both the lap and shoulder harnesses fastened and placed properly on the body.

In State of Indiana v. Shawn Massey, No. 49A02-0712-CR-1136, the state appealed the trial court's grant of Shawn Massey's motion to suppress evidence found during what she claimed was an invalid traffic stop.

The police saw Massey's passenger, a 12-year-old girl, did not have the shoulder part of her seatbelt across her body properly, so they stopped the car. The girl had on only the lap portion of the belt; she had the shoulder harness tucked underneath her armpit.

Massey was charged with Class D felony operating a motor vehicle while a habitual traffic offender because after stopping the car, the police discovered she was driving with a suspended license.

At issue is how to construe the "properly fastened" language in the seatbelt statute. The state argued the passenger didn't have her seatbelt properly fastened because she was only wearing the lap belt correctly.

Chief Judge John Baker, noting there isn't any Indiana precedent on the case, agreed with the state's argument that it would be illogical to construe the statute as permitting a motorist to wear a seatbelt improperly. The purpose of the statute is to promote highway safety and to protect citizens.

The evidence on the record led the police to conclude that the passenger wasn't wearing her seatbelt because they saw the seatbelt tucked behind her shoulder, which initiated the stop, he wrote.

Because Massey committed a Class D infraction by having a passenger under the age of 16 not properly fastened by a safety belt, the police had the authority to ask for Massey's driver's license, which led to the discovery she was driving while her driving privileges were suspended.
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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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