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Justices take 4th Amendment case

September 29, 2014

The Indiana Supreme Court will decide a case that divided the Indiana Court of Appeals over whether marijuana and a pipe found after a traffic stop should be suppressed.

The trial court granted Michael Cunningham’s motion to suppress, finding the initial traffic stop was illegal. Police pulled over Cunningham’s car because one of the two tail lamps was white – instead of red – because the red lens covering was missing.

Cunningham got out of his car to look at the tail light, after which the police officer patted him down for safety. The pat down led to the discovery of a pill bottle, which Cunningham admitted contained marijuana. A pipe was found in his car.

The COA majority held the officer gave Cunningham an ultimatum: If you want to get out of the car, you will be patted down. There was no reasonable suspicion he was armed and dangerous.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented, noting that Cunningham left his car with the knowledge that he would be subject to a pat-down search.

The justices denied transfer to 22 other cases for the week ending Sept. 26.
 

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