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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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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