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Tinted-window stop yielding pot arrest by precedent-setting cop upheld

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Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer Keith Minch is on a roll in the appellate courts.

Earlier this year, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that drug evidence resulting from Minch’s stop of a vehicle with legally tinted windows was admissible in Erving Sanders v. State of Indiana, 49S-02-1304-CR-242.

Tuesday, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court conviction of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges stemming from another tinted-window stop by Minch in Gregory Johnson v. State of Indiana,  49A02-1301-CR-28. In both cases, Minch testified that he stopped the vehicles because he believed that they might have violated the Indiana Window Tint Statute, I.C. 9-19-19-4, and that he couldn’t see through the windows clearly enough to identify the occupants.

In Johnson’s case, he was found to be driving with a suspended license, and the subsequent pat-down search turned up marijuana. Johnson testified that the tinted windows on his Dodge Caravan were factory-installed and that he shouldn’t have been stopped, but the trial court refused to suppress the evidence.

“We are precluded from accepting Johnson’s invitation to consider photographic evidence presented during trial that he argues shows the tinting on his rear window was not excessive and, in fact, was no darker than other similar Dodge Caravans. To do so at the expense of Officer Minch’s testimony of what he observed at the time of the traffic stop would constitute reweighing the evidence, which we cannot do,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the court.

“Even if Officer Minch was mistaken about whether the rear window of the minivan violated the Window Tint Statute, his testimony establishes that it was a good faith mistake and that there was reasonable suspicion to make the stop.”

However, the opinion was less than an endorsement of pulling over vehicles with dark windows.

"We will admit that the degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that Johnson was committing a traffic violation was not overwhelming," Barnes wrote. "Unlike running a red light or turning without signaling or speeding as measured by a radar gun, there is much subjectivity that goes into deciding whether a window of a moving car is too dark under the Window Tint Statute. And, again, the State does not dispute that the minivan’s windows were factory standard.

“Still, the degree of suspicion was not non-existent. We also will acknowledge that the State’s interest in enforcing the Window Tint Statute is not an overwhelmingly pressing public safety concern. … Nonetheless, there are legitimate law enforcement and safety interests in prohibiting the operation of vehicles with excessive window tinting, and police officers are entitled to enforce the statute.”

The panel also rejected Johnson’s argument that lawmakers would not have passed a statute under which drivers with factory-installed window tinting would be subject to a traffic stop on that basis alone.

“If the General Assembly believes it would be wise to re-write the Window Tint Statute in such a way as to limit police officer authority to pull over vehicles for suspected violations of that law, it could do so,” Barnes wrote. “Additionally, the primary check upon potential abuse of the Window Tint Statute as a pretext to conduct traffic stops must lie with trial courts, which are in a position to judge the credibility of police officer testimony regarding the ability to see through a particular vehicle’s window tinting.”
 

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  • COA rewrites the law again!
    If the windows were factory tinted, the officer could see through them easily. When you go to court they don't pay attention to words, they believe the cop every time. If you don't have undeniable proof that the cop was in the wrong, you will lose every time. This is no different than the cop that pulled a driver over because he had a pin hole in his tail light. He didn't know the law either. If the windows were not too dark, where was the reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop? Sorry officer Minch but you should be a boy scout, not a cop and whoopee, a suspended license and a marijuana bust. While the robbers, rapist and murderers run free!

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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