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Judges reverse denial of motion to suppress

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The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the denial of man’s motion to suppress, finding the traffic stop that resulted in his drunk driving arrest wasn’t supported by reasonable suspicion.

Greenwood Police Officer Greg Lengerich stopped Ryan Goens’ minivan for driving without any operable brake lights. During the stop, Lengerich smelled alcohol, gave Goens a warning citation for a vehicle equipment violation, and then conducted field sobriety tests. Goens failed them and blew a 0.21 after taking a certified breath test. He was charged with five counts relating to driving while intoxicated.

He filed a motion to suppress, arguing his minivan had two operable stop lamps and was in compliance with Title 9 of the Indiana Constitution. The officer was unable to attend the hearing and said in his deposition testimony that he couldn’t remember whether only one stop lamp wasn’t working or if all the stop lamps were out. Also at the hearing, Goens’ passenger testified he saw another officer move the minivan to a parking lot and that the only brake light out was on the rear passenger’s side.

Even though the trial court found two stop lamps were lighted, it denied his motion to suppress. The judge concluded it was reasonable for Lengerich to stop the minivan to inform the driver that a light was burned out.

On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the denial in Ryan J. Goens v. State of Indiana, No. 41A01-1006-CR-277. The state argued that Lengerich properly stopped Goens because his minivan wasn’t in compliance with Indiana Code sections 9-19-6-17 or 9-21-7-1, the “good working order statute.” Goens claimed his minivan had two operating stop lamps and was in compliance with I.C. Section 9-19-6-17(a).

After examining the statutes, the judges determined Goens’ vehicle was in compliance with Section 17(a). They read that statute, along with I.C. chapter 9-19-6, to rule the statutes require at least one, but only one, functioning stop lamp. The trial court concluded that two of the three lamps on Goens’ minivan were working, so there was no violation of I.C. Section 9-16-6-17 to support reasonable suspicion for the stop, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

The judges also rejected the state’s argument that his vehicle wasn’t in “good working order.” Stop lamps aren’t specifically referenced in Article 21. The purpose of the statute is to require vehicles traveling on darkened roads to have operating headlights and taillights so that others can see the car. After examining the statutes, they decided that a stop or brake lamp isn’t the same equipment as, doesn’t serve the same function as, and is regulated differently from a tail lamp under Indiana statutes.
 
“Furthermore, as set forth above, sections 9-19-6-6 and 17 only require at least one functioning stop lamp. Therefore, if the good working order statute is applied to stop lamps, Goens’s vehicle was in good working order as required by section 9-21-7-1 because two of the three stop lamps on the vehicle were functioning properly at the time of the stop,” wrote Judge Mathias. “For all of these reasons, we conclude that Goens did not operate his vehicle in violation of either section 9-19-6-17 or section 9-21-7-1.”

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  • See Freeman
    Oh my; don't we have fun in Indiana. What do you now tell Law Enforcement.

    Freman v. State 904 NE2

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  1. Such things are no more elections than those in the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

  2. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  3. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  4. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  5. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

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