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Traffic infraction not necessary for police stop

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Even though a police officer didn't see a driver commit any traffic infractions before pulling him over, the officer could stop the car because he believed the driver might have been injured or impaired, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed today.

In Lucian Potter v. State of Indiana, No. 41A04-0904-CR-217, Lucian Potter argued his traffic stop wasn't proper because the officer that pulled him over didn't see him commit any traffic violations. Potter was stopped after Greenwood Police Officer Nicholas Dine spotted him weaving within his lane of traffic and nearly hit a concrete median when turning onto a road. Potter failed the field sobriety tests and portable breath test. At trial, his motion to suppress was denied; he was convicted of Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated with an enhanced sentence for being a habitual offender.

In challenging his motion to suppress, Potter argued the police officer violated his Fourth Amendment rights for pulling him over because he didn't witness Potter violating any traffic laws.

The Fourth Amendment isn't violated by a brief, investigatory stop conducted by an officer who has reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, wrote Judge Carr Darden. Dine testified that based on his training and experience, he thought the car's erratic movements were a sign of impairment or that someone was ill or injured. He wanted to make sure the driver was OK and further investigate the situation.

"These are articulable facts that support the reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was taking place, to wit: that the driver was operating the SUV while impaired from intoxication. Such circumstances warranted a brief traffic stop to 'confirm or dispel' Dine's suspicion in this regard," the judge wrote.

The appellate court also rejected Potter's argument that the Maryland case, Lewis v. State, 920 A.2d 1080 (Md. 2007), and the dissent of State v. Barrett, 837 N.E.2d 1022 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006), show that to comport with the Fourth Amendment, a traffic stop can't be initiated until an officer sees a traffic violation.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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