Monday, October 29, 2012
Ind. Decisions - More on "Driving For Miles With Blinker On is Not a Crime"
An Indiana court's ruling about marijuana and turn signals could have broad implications about how police conduct traffic stops, and make some convictions easier to battle in court.ILB: Here is the May 10, 2012 COA opinion in Allison Riggle v. State.
In March 2011, a Kokomo police officer pulled over a man for not turning left while his signal was blinking. After the officer discovered two bags of marijuana in the vehicle, the man, Rodney Killebrew II, was charged and later convicted of possession of marijuana.
On Oct. 19, though, the Indiana Court of Appeals threw out the conviction after determining Indiana law does not make it illegal to flash a turn signal without turning at an intersection.
Authorities and legal experts say the case will force officers to rethink why they conduct traffic stops. Prosecutors also expect suspects to use the ruling in court to try to prevent -- or reverse -- convictions.
"It's important that police officers understand what is and isn't a traffic violation," said Joel Schumm, a professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law, "because if they pull someone over for something they think is a traffic violation and is not, evidence of drugs and guns and other things is not going to be able to be used against the defendant."
Indiana courts, before the Kokomo case, had never determined if using a turn signal without turning at an intersection was a traffic violation, judges in the ruling said.
The judges cited a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that said police could not stop a man and search his car just because he flashed his turn signal without turning. * * *
This is not the first time the Indiana Court of Appeals has overturned a local conviction from a traffic stop.
In May, the court threw out the conviction of Allison Riggle on marijuana charges because she was pulled over for turning too widely onto Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.
In October 2011, the court overturned the conviction of Ken Gunn for carrying a handgun with a recently expired permit, because he was pulled over for turning too widely onto North High School Road.
It's common for rulings like the Kokomo one to come out, authorities say, so officers must change to comply with the law. Just as they can no longer conduct traffic stops based on turning too widely, now they can't conduct stops based upon misused turn signals in certain circumstances. * * *
The ruling can be referenced in cases, said Brad Banks, division supervisor at the Marion County prosecutor's office, in which an officer pulls over someone for an action that's not illegal.
For example, suspects who are only pulled over for weaving within one lane might use the ruling successfully, because that's legal in most cases.
"I am sure we'll see the argument," Banks said.
But the Kokomo case also is a rarity. Most traffic violations involve running red lights and speeding, Banks said.
"It's just very rare," he said. "In 10 years I've never seen another case where that was the cause of the stop. It's just not something you see very often, quite frankly."
Here is the Nov. 24, 2011 COA opinion in Ken Gunn v. State.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 29, 2012 09:38 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions