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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. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  2. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  3. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

  5. Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?

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