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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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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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