Oral argument: Bright-line speeding rule requested in OWI case

The Indiana Supreme Court heard oral argument Monday morning on a speeding-turned-OWI case following its grant of transfer to the state’s appeal, including concerns regarding reasonable suspicion.

In Oct. 2016, Zachariah Marshall was pulled over by a Porter County reserve officer based upon his belief that Marshall was speeding. The stop quickly became an investigation into operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Marshall filed a motion to suppress evidence at trial, alleging the traffic stop was unlawful because the officer’s belief that he was speeding was, alone, insufficient to prove how fast Marshall was driving prior to the stop. 

On grant of transfer, the state contended the trial court properly denied Marshall’s motion to suppress in Zachariah Marshall v. State of Indiana,18S-CR-00464 and that the traffic stop did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights or the Indiana Constitution. But the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed.

The state argued in its transfer petition that reasonable suspicion “does not require definitive evidence answering all possible questions regarding a person’s guilt of an offense.”

The state added that the trial court properly declined to suppress evidence of Marshall’s intoxication because the officer’s testimony gave “specific, articulable facts” to reasonably establish his suspicion that Marshall was speeding.

“This case should have been done and over with in the first paragraph of the trial court's order when it said in a section titled ‘facts,’ Officer Dolan observed Zachariah Marshall’s car speeding and stopped his vehicle,” Deputy Attorney General J.T. Whitehead said.

In rebuttable, counsel for Marshall, Michael Campbell, argued that the issue was whether an officer could lawfully pull over a motorist for speeding if he is unsure of the motorist’s exact speed.

“All of the caselaw requires at least a stab at the speed, and that's not something that reserve Officer Dolan did,” Campbell said. “And importantly, reserve Officer Dolan even stated that he doesn't recall the speed. He testified at deposition that he didn’t know, thought it may have been 40 miles an hour, and then he comes to the suppression hearing and says it’s 50.”

Campbell then requested the high court require a bright-line rule for traffic stops based on speeding, requiring that those speeds be written down in order to meet the standard for reasonable suspicion.

In response, the state argued that the case would be one of first impression if a bright-line rule was drawn.

“Here, the Court of Appeals determined that reasonable suspicion to suspect wrongdoing did not exist because the State did not present evidence of the actual speed driven by Marshall. In other words, the Court of Appeals here has required the State to prove wrongdoing by some standard approaching beyond a reasonable doubt,” the state wrote in its petition. “The Court of Appeals required proof of the actual violation — here, speeding — as justification for the stop, and not simply proof of circumstances that would give the officer a particularized or objective basis for suspecting wrongdoing.”

When asked to evaluate the facts of Marshall’s case with the omission of any reference to the radar gun on the record, Whitehead said he was unsure if that would “meet the muster or not” for a standard of reasonable suspicion.

“I’m saying I don't know, and if it were my case, I would certainly be digging as deep as possible for all facts available to me to support the officer’s conclusion that there was speeding without the radar,” Whitehead said.

Monday’s oral argument may be viewed here.

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