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Two traffic stops and two motions to suppress result in two different rulings

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A pair of opinions from the Indiana Supreme Court examines two Terry stops made by police officers and through opposite rulings emphasizes law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion to pull over a driver.

In both cases, drivers were stopped after county deputies observed them on the roadway and concluded they were impaired. Both defendants filed motions to suppress the evidence, but only one was successful.

The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress in Joanna S. Robinson v. State of Indiana, 20S04-1307-CR-471. It agreed with the trial court’s decision to give deference to what Elkhart County Sheriff Deputy Casey Claeys said he saw even when that testimony conflicted with the video he made of the incident.

Claeys said he watched Robinson drive off the road twice then turned on his vehicle camera and initiated the traffic stop. The video showed Robinson weaving onto the fog line but not off the road.

Robinson was subsequently convicted of possession of marijuana and operating while intoxicated, both Class A misdemeanors, and operating with the breath-alcohol level over 0.08, a Class C misdemeanor. She appealed, arguing the trial court wrongly denied her motion to suppress.

Like the trial court, the Supreme Court gave more weight to Claeys’ testimony than to the video.

 “…when Deputy Claeys testified at the suppression hearing, the trial judge heard his testimony – along with the other witness testimony and evidence, including the video – through the lens of his experience and expertise,” Judge Mark Massa wrote for the majority. “Ultimately, that experience and expertise led the trial judge to weigh Deputy Claeys’s testimony more heavily than the video evidence, and we decline Robinson’s invitation to substitute our own judgment for that of the trial court and rebalance the scales in her favor.”

Justice Robert Rucker dissented, arguing the Indiana Court of Appeals was correct in finding the evidence from the traffic stop should not have been admitted in court.

He argued that rather than crediting Claeys’ testimony, the trial court concluded that Robinson’s weaving provided reasonable suspicion for pulling her over. However, Rucker contended that reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop required more than weaving onto the fog line.  

In State of Indiana v. Darrell L. Keck, 67S01-1403-CR-179, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, granting the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence.

Putnam County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Smith pulled Keck over after he observed Keck driving 12 miles per hour slower than the speed limit, come to a complete stop before turning left, and then driving down the middle of that county road.  

Keck was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.08 or more, both Class C misdemeanors. He filed a motion for suppression, noting he did not come to a full stop before turning and he drove left of center to avoid hitting the potholes in the road.

The trial court took notice of the poor road conditions in the county and agreed that evasive action, including driving left of center, was necessary. It granted the motion to suppress.

The Indiana Supreme Court agreed that Smith lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Keck.

“We emphasize that our opinion today should not be taken to mean that driving left of center would never give rise to reasonable suspicion sufficient to support a traffic stop,” Massa wrote for the court. “All we hold today is that here, in this case, the trial court did not clearly err in concluding under these circumstances, that Keck’s driving left-of-center did not provide reasonable suspicion to stop him.”
 

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  1. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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  4. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  5. 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

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