Judges: Cop shouldn’t have asked driver for license

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a man’s motion to suppress evidence collected during an investigatory traffic stop. The judges held that once the police officer knew the owner of the vehicle – who had a suspended license – was not driving, the investigation should have ended.

Jay County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Wendel pulled over a gold van registered to Ashley Boyd because a driver’s license check revealed her license was suspended. While following the van, he saw no traffic violations.

When he approached the van, Joseph Johnson was driving and Boyd was a passenger. Boyd identified herself as Ashley Boyd and confirmed her license was suspended.

Then Wendel asked Johnson for his driver’s license because he wanted to confirm the driver was not Boyd. Johnson gave the deputy an identification card because his driver’s license was also suspended. Johnson was arrested and later charged with Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended.

Johnson filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained during the traffic stop; the trial court denied it.

On interlocutory appeal in Joseph M. Johnson v. State of Indiana, 38A02-1405-CR-340, the appeals court reversed and remanded, citing Armfield v. State, 918 N.E.2d 316 (Ind. 2009), and Holly v. State, 918 N.E.2d 323 (Ind. 2009).  

“The facts show that before asking for Johnson’s identification, Deputy Wendel knew of evidence or circumstances that indicated that the registered owner was not the driver, but a backseat passenger. By his own testimony, he had no reason to disbelieve Boyd’s statement. In other words, he no longer had reasonable suspicion that Boyd was driving while suspended. As such, ‘there is simply nothing in this record justifying any further inquiry subsequent to the valid Terry stop,’” L. Mark Bailey wrote, quoting Holly. “The deputy’s investigation should have ended there.”


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