Recent news reports out of the state of Arkansas discuss the new technologies employed by law enforcement to track illegal driving activity. Most significant to the issue is the underlying reality that license plates are being recorded and investigated on a random basis, irrespective of asserted probable cause to suggest that a driving offense of any kind has been commited.
In an age where local communities nationwide are strapped for financial resources in periods of economic distress, such municipalites have invested in modern technologies by which to enable police departments to increase apprehension of motorists subject to potential criminal activitity through use of a motor vehicle.
For dui lawyers practicing in Indiana, the concept of arbitrary running of license plates by law enforcement is not a newsworthy development. Over the years judicial rulings in this state and elsewhere have enabled law enforcement to initiate the traffic stops of motorists whether or not asserted driving violations have been commited.
In Indiana and other states the dispositive issue has not been been whether or not probable cause for a driving offense has occured, but whether an arbitrary license record check indicates the commission of driving activity during the course of a potential license suspension.
For those previously under the assumption that conscientious driving activity would insulate them from the scrutiny of a police stop, a succession of judicial rulings that have upheld the practice of traffic stops based upon arbitrary license checks in Indiana would suggest otherwise.
The consistancy of judicial rulings in favor of law enforcement on the issue nationwide has become so widespread that states such as Arkansas have now begun to invest significant financial resources toward the utilization of the latest in modern technology to record license plates and instantaneous record checks as to the validity of a drivers license directed at the target of a potential police stop.
In Indiana, depending upon the jurisdiction, the practice of indiscriminate running of license plates in the absence of an articulable traffic offense has been prevelant for many years. Hamilton county in particular has withstood judicial challenge to the practice on many fronts through several legal appeals focused upon probable cause considerations.
Initially, the practice of police pull overs of african american motorists in Hamilton County based upon defective drivers licenses in the absence of probable cause for the commission of a driving offense became so widespread that the Indiana Civil Liberties Union mounted a civil rights lawsuit against the county for the practice.
Despite a public relations backlash, Indiana appellate rulings have green lighted the practice of such initiated traffic stops. As a result, Hamilton County has lead the way in what I forecast to be the eventual adaptation of the practice of indiscriminate records checks of otherwise responsible driving activity throughout Indiana in the coming years.
The lesson to be gleaned from these news reports is that despite the consternation of defense attorneys as to the erosion of the concept of probable cause such legal developments represent, motorists must be ever vigilant as to the potential hazards looming on our roadways.
For those individuals leaving a social engagement whether it be a wedding reception, business outing, sporting event or any other public function, one can no longer be under the misguided belief that careful driving activity can insulate oneself from a traffic stop in the absence of a valid driving record.
As a result, it is imperative for one who occassionally consumes alcohol to keep up to date as to the status of one’s driving record so as to truly deprive law enforcement from targeting you or someone dear to you for an initiated traffic stop that can otherwise lead to a costly criminal arrest.