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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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