Although a police officer began following a pick-up truck after he mistakenly ran the wrong license plate number, the driver’s conviction will stand because the officer did not initiate the stop until he observed the driver make a traffic violation.
Jose Santana appealed his conviction of a Class C felony operating a motor vehicle while privileges are forfeited for life. He was pulled over by Goshen Police Officer Todd Burks after Santana failed to signal a turn less than 200 feet before turning.
Santana argued Burks did not have a valid reason for stopping his truck. He asserted the stop was improper because the officer got the license plate number incorrect.
When Burks ran Santana’s license plate, he omitted one digit and got a report that indicated the truck did not have the proper plate. For this reason, the officer started following the truck but maintained he did not pull Santana over until Santana activated his turn signal 100 to 150 feet before he turned.
Burks pointed to Indiana Code 9-21-8-25 which requires turn signals be activated at least 200 feet before turning or changing lanes.
The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction in Jose M. Santana v. State of Indiana, 20A04-1302-CR-54.
Citing Turner v. State, 862 N.E.2d 695, 699 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), the Court of Appeals ruled Burks may not have followed Santana if he had entered the correct license number, but the officer still had an objectively justifiable reason to stop the driver.