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Judges reverse denial of motion to suppress after car stopped for window tint

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The Indiana Court of Appeals concluded on interlocutory appeal that an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer lacked reasonable suspicion when he stopped a man’s car due to the tint on his rear window because the evidence shows the window tint didn’t justify the stop.

Officer Keith Minch stopped Erving Sanders’ Suburban around 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, 2011, based on the tint of the rear window. He believed it was too dark and warranted an infraction. When speaking to Sanders, he smelled marijuana and searched Sanders. He found a substance on Sanders which Sanders admitted was cocaine.

Sanders was charged with Class D felony possession of cocaine, but he sought to suppress the evidence. Evidence produced during the hearings on his motion showed that the front windshield and side windows weren’t tinted and the rear window and side panels had some tint. A photograph showed that it was possible to see the outline of the front window, top of the steering wheel and a portion of a wiper blade through the rear window.

When asked about the window tinting and whether he could see through it, Minch either answered he didn’t know or couldn’t determine from the photo. Sanders had an expert testify that the rear window was tinted at 38 percent, which is higher than the 30 percent of light transmittance required under law.

Marion Superior Judge Jose Salinas acknowledged that the window tint was within the prescribed limits of the law but denied the motion to suppress based on a good-faith intent on Minch’s part at the time of the stop.

In Erving Sanders v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1205-CR-361, Sanders argued that the judge’s position means that an officer is never wrong and a stop would always be upheld.

“Based upon the evidence presented at the suppression hearings, including the photographs of the Suburban which were taken one hour after the stop and depict the window tinting, we cannot say that there was an objectively justifiable reason for the stop of the vehicle,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote. “Accordingly, under the totality of the circumstances Officer Minch lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Sanders for investigatory purposes at the time he observed Sanders’s vehicle. The trial court erred in denying Sanders’s motion to suppress.”

 

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