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Friday, March 21, 2014

Ind. Decisions - "Indiana Court Rules Against Searching Motorists Who Leave Their Car Looking at a tail light during a traffic stop does not justify a pat down"

The Feb. 27th Court of Appeals opinion in State of Indiana v. Michael E. Cunningham is the subject of a story today in theNewspaper.com: "A journal of the politics of driving." The story begins:

Police may not search a motorist simply because he gets out of his car, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided last month. A divided three-judge panel found Huntingburg Police Officer Andrew Hammock was in the wrong when he performed a pat-down search of Michael E. Cunningham simply because the driver wanted to see whether his tail light really was broken while pulled over for the offense on May 17, 2013.

During the stop, Cunningham was genuinely surprised when the officer told him one of his tail light covers was missing. He knew he had a cracked lens, but he did not think it was completely broken. Cunningham asked if he could see for himself. Officer Hammock said he could, but he would have to be searched first. Officer Hammock felt a pill bottle in Cunningham's pocket, and when asked Cunningham admitted it contained marijuana. He also had a pipe in the car. Officer Hammock arrested Cunningham.

Cunningham was charged with Class A misdemeanors for possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia. At trial, Cunningham argued the entire traffic stop was illegal. The appellate court disagreed and found the initial traffic stop was entirely justified, but it went on to question the validity of the pat-down search.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 21, 2014 11:38 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions