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Traffic stop based on companion’s statement did not violate constitutional protections

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Police had the “reasonable suspicion” required to stop a possible impaired driver, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled, even though the driver’s companion did not specifically tell the officers the driver was intoxicated.

Damon Ray Bowers brought an interlocutory appeal of the denial of his motion to suppress evidence gathered from a traffic stop. The COA, in Damon Ray Bowers v. State of Indiana, 55A04-1204-CR-180, found the trial court did not err when it denied his motion to suppress, ruling the brief traffic stop was justified by the police having reasonable suspicion that Bowers was intoxicated.

Accordingly, it affirmed and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

In the early morning of Oct. 9, 2011, Mooresville police approached April Bowers, the defendant’s ex-wife, after they saw her exit Damon Bowers’ van. She was intoxicated and told the officers she and Damon Bowers had been drinking.

Police pulled over Damon Bowers after he briefly returned to the scene and then left. He appeared intoxicated, admitted to drinking alcohol, and failed three field sobriety tests.

The state charged Damon Bowers with Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated and Class D felony operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.15 or more.

Damon Bowers filed a motion to suppress the evidence from the traffic stop, arguing the stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion and violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The trial court denied the motion.

On appeal, he argued the police did not have the reasonable suspicion required to stop his vehicle because April Bowers said he was “drinking” and not “intoxicated.”

The COA disagreed.  

Citing Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356,359 (Ind. 2005), the COA pointed out that to determine reasonableness, it has to consider (1) the degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that a violation has occurred, (2) the degree of intrusion the method of the search or seizure imposes on the citizen’s ordinary activities, and (3) the extent of law enforcement’s needs.

The COA found police had “reasonable suspicion” that Damon Bowers was intoxicated based on what they observed and what April Bowers told them. It addition, it deemed the stop of Bowers’ vehicle to be a “minimal intrusion.” Finally, it pointed out that police needed to prevent Damon Bowers from driving further if he was intoxicated so he would not endanger himself or others.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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