The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a man’s drunk driving and marijuana possession convictions based on police
officer conduct, finding that the officer shouldn’t have held a gun and handcuffed him during what could have been a
legitimate traffic stop.
A unanimous three-judge panel ruled today in Daniel C. Reinhart v. State of Indiana, No. 57A03-1002-CR-84, which comes from Noble Superior Court.
Daniel Reinhart was arrested following an August 2008 encounter with police involving a sheriff’s deputy who’d
pulled him over in the early morning hours. At one point, Reinhart pulled his jeep into a driveway where the deputy was sitting
with his radar gun and began yelling at the officer through the window. Another man was in the vehicle, and the deputy ordered
Reinhart to back up after being concerned about his own safety. He then called for backup and followed Reinhart – witnessing
him crossing into other traffic lanes.
The deputy pulled Reinhart over, drew his weapon, and ordered Reinhart to exit his vehicle and get on his knees with his
hands on the back of his head. The man stayed in that position for about 90 seconds, and then was ordered to lie flat on his
stomach for a pat-down search that revealed a glass marijuana pipe and a baggie of marijuana in his pocket. Officers also
noticed there was a smell of alcohol coming from Reinhart, and that he had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. They handcuffed
and arrested him.
During a bench trial in November 2009, the trial judge overruled Reinhart’s objection about the search and admitted
the evidence, resulting in a conviction of felony drunk driving and misdemeanor marijuana possession. But the appellate court
disagreed with that result.
Though a valid Terry stop allows for officers to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety, the deputy in this
case displayed what the appellate judges considered excessive conduct that converted that Terry stop and allowable
activity into what constitutes an arrest requiring probable cause.
“While we are mindful of the significant danger faced by police officers during traffic stops, we must balance the
interests of officer safety with the privacy interests protected by the Fourth Amendment in requiring law enforcement to use
the least intrusive means necessary to investigate a traffic stop,” Judge Terry Crone wrote, citing Wilson v. State,
745 N.E.2d 789, 792 (Ind. 2001). “Under the facts presented, this was more than a minimal deprivation of Reinhart’s
liberty of movement necessary to inform (the deputy’s) suspicion that Reinhart was operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
The police officers’ behavior in this case exceeded the scope of a Terry stop and became an arrest without probable
Because police didn’t have probable cause to search Reinhart, the retrieved marijuana and drug material should not
have been admitted, the appellate court ruled.