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Justices: Officer had reasonable suspicion window tint violated law

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The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress cocaine found on him after his car was stopped by police on the belief the car’s window tint did not comply with Indiana statute. The justices found the officer had reasonable suspicion that the tint was in violation of the Window Tint Statute.

In Erving Sanders v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1304-CR-242, Erving Sanders’ vehicle was pulled over by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer because the officer believed the tinted windows were so dark to constitute a traffic infraction. The officer smelled marijuana in the car and Sanders admitted to smoking a joint. When the officer searched Sanders, he found a plastic bag with a white substance in it, which Sanders said was cocaine.

Sanders was arrested and the car was photographed. An expert testified after viewing the car that the window tint was actually legally within the statutorily defined limits. The trial court denied Sanders’ motion to dismiss, finding an officer’s good faith subjective belief of violation of a traffic law is enough to justify the initial stop, even if it’s later found the traffic law wasn’t violated. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed.

Sanders argued that because the tint objectively complied with statute, the officer’s subjective interpretation of the identity and tint didn’t justify the stop, so any evidence seized in the subsequent search is in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

“Such proof of compliance with the Window Tint Statute undoubtedly relieves the defendant of any liability for a window tint violation. However, it does not serve to vitiate the legality of the traffic stop,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote. “ The officer's belief, based on the fact that he could not ‘clearly recognize or identify the occupant inside,’ that the window tint violated the Window Tint Statute, coupled with the fact that the actual tint closely borders the statutory limit, leads us to conclude that the officer had reasonable suspicion to make the initial stop.”

The justices also found this case is distinguishable from Ransom v. State, 741 N.E.2d 419, 422 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), because the apparent infraction for which Sanders’ car was initially stopped does in fact exist in law. In Ransom, the officer pulled over a driver for an infraction that did not exist in law.

“Although the officer was ultimately mistaken in his belief that a violation occurred, the traffic stop was based upon a good faith, reasonable belief that a statutory infraction had occurred and thus we are unable to say that the traffic stop was not lawful,” Dickson wrote about Sanders’ case.

 

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  1. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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