Anyone who has found themselves in the unenviable position of being in a traffic stop knows the stress and panic it can cause. Whether it be a DUI check-point, a rear headlight being out, or failure to use a turn signal, no one likes being pulled over. You may ask yourself, “can a police officer pull you over at any time?” or “what are the limits on being pulled over?” While there are no hard and fast rules governing traffic stops, the United States Supreme Court has set out limits. The Supreme Court has stated that a police officer can make an “investigatory stop” when said officer has “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity “may be afoot.”1 As one can guess, “reasonable suspicion” is a flexible standard that court’s apply to police officers. In a key new case cover in this blog, the Indiana Supreme Court illustrates the breath of this standard; this the recent decision of Marshall v. State2.
In Marshall, the Indiana Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeals’ decision that an officer’s testimony of witnessing speeding, without any further evidence, was insufficient to support a traffic stop. The relevant facts of the case are as follows: The Defendant, Zachariah Marshall, was pulled over in 2016 based on an officer’s belief that Marshall was speeding. During the stop, the officer smelled alcohol on Marshall’s breath, and the investigation went from one of speeding to one of Operating While Intoxicated. Marshall was thereafter charged with OWI. Subsequently, Marshall filed a Motion to Suppress, arguing that the evidence of the OWI was unlawfully obtained because the traffic stop itself was unconstitutional. The crux of Marshall’s argument was that an officer’s “belief” that Marshall was speeding is not enough to prove Marshall was, in fact, speeding. As such, without evidence that Marshall was speeding, the officer had no right to pull him over to discovery he was intoxicated. The trial court did not buy Marshall’s argument and denied his Motion to Suppress. The Court of Appeals, on the other hand, agreed with Marshall, and reversed the decision of the trial court.
The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer3, reversing the Indiana Court of Appeals, and analyzed the “reasonable suspicion” standard established by the US Supreme Court. In applying said standard, the Indiana Supreme Court stated that the “reasonable suspicion standard does not change for speeding traffic stops specifically.” As such, the Court found that it did not matter whether the officer documented the evidence of speeding, only that the officer had a “reasonable suspicion” that the defendant was speeding. In conclusion, the Indiana Supreme Court held that “this traffic stop passes muster under both the United States and Indiana Constitutions.” Thus, a police officer’s subjective belief of speeding alone is enough to justify a lawful traffic stop.4
This area of law is extremely technical, while also having the potential to completely change the course of your life. An individual who is unaware of their rights may have them violated or unwittingly violate the law without even knowing. This is not a defense to a crime. You must know and follow the law. The importance of understanding the status of developments in the law is the key to avoiding criminal exposure, as well as being an engaged citizen in our participatory system of government. This blog post on a key new case was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle criminal defense cases and appeals of criminal convictions throughout the state. Knowing the law is a key to being an engaged citizen. Having criminal defense counsel current on the latest developments in law provides you with the best criminal defense. This blog is written for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1 (1989)
- Marshall v. State of Indiana, 18S-CR-00464 (Ind. 2019).
- This means the accepted it to reconsider.
- Normally, the US Supreme Court and Indian Supreme Court agree on the constitutional basis and Indiana’s constitutional freedoms and protections are the same as those set forth by the United States Supreme Court.