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Appellate court overturns conviction

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  • Appellate court overturns conviction

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A police officer exceeded the boundaries of the state's seat belt law when he asked a man following a stop if he was carrying anything the lawman should know about, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

    The court on Tuesday reversed Gary W. Pearson's conviction in Warrick County on charges of possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana — along with the seat belt infraction.

    Pearson was stopped for driving without a seat belt on Sept. 9, 2004, by a Chandler police officer who asked him to step out of the car so he could do a pat-down search for weapons.

    During the search, Officer Matt Hastings asked Pearson if he was carrying anything the officer should know about, and Pearson told him he had marijuana in a pants pocket, according to court documents. Hastings then searched Pearson's car and found methamphetamine.

    Pearson sought to have the evidence suppressed, arguing that the search was illegal because the officer had no reasonable suspicion that he was armed and dangerous. A Warrick circuit judge denied his motion. Pearson sought to appeal directly to the Court of Appeals, but it declined to hear the case then and he was sentenced in November to one year on both drug counts, with six months suspended and six months on work-release and appealed again.

    In a 13-page opinion, the Court of Appeals said that the stop and the weapons search were legal. But, Judge Patrick Sullivan wrote, the attorney general had asserted that legislators had sharply limited what police could do following a seat belt stop. Hastings had overstepped those limits, rendering the evidence inadmissible, the opinion said.

    "Notwithstanding the fact that Officer Hastings may have had reasonable suspicion to justify the pat-down search for weapons ... the marijuana was not discovered as a result of the pat-down search, but rather upon Pearson's response to Officer Hastings' question during the pat-down search," Sullivan wrote.

    And on the basis of the attorney general's position, "we conclude that Officer Hastings was not justified in asking Pearson if he had anything on his person."
    Uh... I don't get it. Could an Indiana officer explain this to me, please? You can't ask if there's anything you need to be concerned about while patting someone down? I would have assumed the officer didn't want to get pricked by a needle or blade or something.

  • #2
    Originally posted by carty View Post
    Uh... I don't get it. Could an Indiana officer explain this to me, please? You can't ask if there's anything you need to be concerned about while patting someone down? I would have assumed the officer didn't want to get pricked by a needle or blade or something.
    The conviction was overturned because the officer stopped the defendant for a seatbelt violation. There is specific wording in the seatbelt statutes that states officers are not allowed to search a vehicle or its occupants if the vehicle is stopped only for a seatbelt violation.

    IC 9-19-10-3.1
    Stopping, inspecting, or detaining vehicle; checkpoints
    Sec. 3.1. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a vehicle may be stopped to determine compliance with this chapter. However, a vehicle, the contents of a vehicle, the driver of a vehicle, or a passenger in a vehicle may not be inspected, searched, or detained solely because of a violation of this chapter.
    (b) A law enforcement agency may not use a safety belt checkpoint to detect and issue a citation for a person's failure to comply with this chapter.
    As added by P.L.214-2007, SEC.8.

    If the officer would have had some other probable cause to justify a search he would have been ok with the arrest.

    Comment


    • #3
      Very true. Indiana legislatures were VERY specific when they made our seatbelt laws a "primary" infraction. Meaning that you could be stopped for not wearing your belt. Other states (until recently) such as Kentucky, the seatbelt law was "secondary." Meaning that a cop couldn't stop you for not wearing your belt alone. If stopped for speeding, and not wearing your belt - THEN you could be cited for it.

      We, as police officers, CANNOT use a seatbelt violation as a "fishing expedition." With that said, if we pull someone over for this violation and there is CLEAR evidence that other criminal activity is afoot, i.e. OWI, burnt marijuana smell, roaches in plain view, then this kicks the stop up a notch.

      The Court of Appeals did a great job in reversing this conviction.
      Why are there so many babies on O.com? Creole, you and your buddy JPSO Recruit help me out on this one....

      * "Preach always, if necessary, use words!" St Francis of Assisi

      * Luke Chapter 6, Verses 27-36

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by carty View Post
        Uh... I don't get it. Could an Indiana officer explain this to me, please? You can't ask if there's anything you need to be concerned about while patting someone down? I would have assumed the officer didn't want to get pricked by a needle or blade or something.

        the big issue is the officer asked about the other items "during the pat down". on a stop for just a seat belt, like impdne stated, one cannot pursue other violations unless visible pc is evident... officer could have issued the citation and returned registration/license and informed driver he was free to go...once items are returned he could ask if there was anything in the car, and if the driver offered up, it would be legit...why? because driver was free to go, and was not being detained and admission was given freely.
        Im pretty much amazing. Just ask anyone about me, im kinda a big deal. I have many leather bound books and my house smells rich of mahogany.

        Comment


        • #5
          I am going to ask a reserve officer that works with that officer for clairfication. However from what I heard a bad report is what lead to this. From what I have been told He did not state in his report what "probable cause" piece of evidence,made him ask the offender to step out of the vehicle and get searched.
          Originally posted by Smurfette_76
          You will always be disappointed when you expect rational behavior from irrational people.
          "I always carry a pen in my but, because you never know when things are going to crack off."
          Unnamed inmate VCJ

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by bigj8550 View Post
            I am going to ask a reserve officer that works with that officer for clairfication. However from what I heard a bad report is what lead to this. From what I have been told He did not state in his report what "probable cause" piece of evidence,made him ask the offender to step out of the vehicle and get searched.

            pc is not required to execute a patdown for officer safety.
            Im pretty much amazing. Just ask anyone about me, im kinda a big deal. I have many leather bound books and my house smells rich of mahogany.

            Comment


            • #7
              SOME counties.....i.e. MINE (LOL) you better have another reason to pat someone down besides "officer safety." If not and you find something, our PA's will throw out the charges.
              Why are there so many babies on O.com? Creole, you and your buddy JPSO Recruit help me out on this one....

              * "Preach always, if necessary, use words!" St Francis of Assisi

              * Luke Chapter 6, Verses 27-36

              Comment


              • #8
                Around these parts if you stop someone for a seatbelt violation you better have PC to do anything else. Hey you know this case may have something to do with that policy.
                Originally posted by Smurfette_76
                You will always be disappointed when you expect rational behavior from irrational people.
                "I always carry a pen in my but, because you never know when things are going to crack off."
                Unnamed inmate VCJ

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by bigj8550 View Post
                  Around these parts if you stop someone for a seatbelt violation you better have PC to do anything else. Hey you know this case may have something to do with that policy.

                  no sir. if you read the opinion offered by the judge it states the officer had reasonable suspicion for the pat down, this is a case of pursuing a matter when not permitted. if he had stopped the individual for taillight, and made the approach and asked for individual to step out, he would still be covered. what i have been told now here by others is that its good practice to return items to driver and advise them they are free to leave before asking for permission to search....unsure if its been challenged anywhere however i guess one could state they felt pressured due to the fact they could not leave because officer was still in possession of their items.
                  Im pretty much amazing. Just ask anyone about me, im kinda a big deal. I have many leather bound books and my house smells rich of mahogany.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    you missed the key word.... "POLICY" it is dept policy now in three agencys around here.
                    Originally posted by Smurfette_76
                    You will always be disappointed when you expect rational behavior from irrational people.
                    "I always carry a pen in my but, because you never know when things are going to crack off."
                    Unnamed inmate VCJ

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by bigj8550 View Post
                      you missed the key word.... "POLICY" it is dept policy now in three agencys around here.
                      the court of appeals could give a rats. about a dpt policy. court of appeals made the decision, not the dpt review board. if this was a local case and we were discussing dpt policies you would have a point however since the case was presented to the court of appeals, and the original poster asked why and or how this was legit most of us offered up responses based on experience and or knowledge...have a stupendous afternoon.
                      Im pretty much amazing. Just ask anyone about me, im kinda a big deal. I have many leather bound books and my house smells rich of mahogany.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Pc2761

                        Originally posted by pc2761 View Post
                        the court of appeals could give a rats. about a dpt policy. court of appeals made the decision, not the dpt review board. if this was a local case and we were discussing dpt policies you would have a point however since the case was presented to the court of appeals, and the original poster asked why and or how this was legit most of us offered up responses based on experience and or knowledge...have a stupendous afternoon.
                        I did not explain it well I will try again. It is a local case first of all, Chandler is a neighboring town. Second I know people who work with this officer. Third I am "told" that he left the PC out of his report. That maybe why it ended up in appeal court. Good debate, you keep me on my toes.
                        Originally posted by Smurfette_76
                        You will always be disappointed when you expect rational behavior from irrational people.
                        "I always carry a pen in my but, because you never know when things are going to crack off."
                        Unnamed inmate VCJ

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by bigj8550 View Post
                          I did not explain it well I will try again. It is a local case first of all, Chandler is a neighboring town. Second I know people who work with this officer. Third I am "told" that he left the PC out of his report. That maybe why it ended up in appeal court. Good debate, you keep me on my toes.
                          its no debate..someone is right, someone is wrong. i win. i believe its appellant court, past tense what up christyle!!!
                          Last edited by pc2761; 08-02-2007, 05:14 PM.
                          Im pretty much amazing. Just ask anyone about me, im kinda a big deal. I have many leather bound books and my house smells rich of mahogany.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Oh for cryin out loud.....What's shakin bacon?
                            Your mom...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              thanks

                              Okay, thanks for the responses everybody. I didn't realize the seat belt law was so specific. At least the guy lost his meth and his pot, they'll get him next time.

                              Comment

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