Within the context of dui arrests, the Constitution of the United States protects American citizens from illegal searches and seizures. This is one area of law that countless numbers of Hoosiers come into contact with on a daily basis across our state; law enforcement officers pull citizens over for everything from moving violations to being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The law determines how these encounters should proceed. In order to be stopped and briefly detained by the police, those officers need to have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur. Officers are allowed to conduct a quick pat down of a person’s leg to search for weapons; officers are only supposed to detain a person for a reasonable amount of time in order to identify that person and to determine if officers’ own safety is at risk.
In many instances such searches are used as a pretext to uncover any evidence pointing toward illegal drug activity and/or usage of alcohol during the course of a dui arrest. Common occurances will notably prompt law enforcement to key on drug paraphernalia and/or bottle openers, etc.
The key case that sets the legal standard for reasonable suspicion isTerry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). Under this ruling, an officer may conduct a consensual “stop and frisk” interrogation, which is limited to making determinations of the potential threats the officer’s safety. Also the officer must be able to articulate a reasonable suspicion that the person being stopped has committed a crime. Under Terry, these stops must be consensual with the understanding that people who are stopped and interrogated are not under arrest and are free to leave the scene of the interrogation after a reasonable time.
The Law of the Land
On January 6, 2012 the Indiana Court of Appeals rendered a decision in Michael Woodson v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1106-CR-306, which established a clear test to determine whether or not the legal standard has been met, and when reasonable suspicion is necessary and satisfied, respectively.
According to the facts of the case, Mr. Woodson was at a gas station near Meridian and 38th Street, in an area that had long been suspect of being a “hotbed” for illegal activity. Mr. Woodson, who was riding his bike next to a nearby vehicle, was spotted by law enforcement and eventually detained near the gas station.
The record is unclear as to precisely why Mr. Woodson was ultimately detained but upon approach by the officer, Mr. Woodson became “loud” and “combative,” but at no point did Mr. Woodson ever threaten the officer’s safety. As the encounter escalated the officer then placed Mr. Woodson in handcuffs, which is an unfortunate yet common practice often permitted under the guise of officer safety. The officer then began to interrogate Mr. Woodson and, without cause or consent, proceeded to search Mr. Woodson’s backpack.
While searching the bag, a set of unmarked DVDs were found, which were later discovered to be bootlegged copies of movies currently released in theaters. Mr. Woodson was subsequently charged with two (2) counts of Felony Fraud and was convicted.
Upon review, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that b) the necessary elements for the consensual Terry “stop and frisk” were not met, and that b) the officer lacked “reasonable suspicion” to conduct a search under the Fourth Amendment or the Indiana Constitution, Article 1, Section 11.
According to the Court, and taking its cues directly from the ruling in Terry, “reasonable suspicion” requires “some objective manifestation that the person stopped is, or is about to be, engaged in criminal activity. A mere ‘hunch’ is insufficient. [The officer must have a] particularized and objective basis for suspecting legal wrongdoing.”
In Woodson, the Court reasoned that the Officer violated Mr. Woodson’s Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 Rights. The Court therefore reversed the Trial Court’s order denying the suppression of the evidence. Because the offense(s) in question rested solely on the suppressed evidence, the Court ultimately reversed Mr. Woodson’s conviction in its entirety.
Confrontations with the law enforcement can indeed be scary and sometimes can lead to an arrest. But there is a huge difference between getting arrested and getting convicted, and often times it all comes down to the skill of your attorney. I have helped countless residents defend themselves against illegal stop and frisks which have lead to unwarranted criminal prosecution. I have the experience, the dedication, and the passion to help you raise a vigorous defense. The guarantee we can make is that we will fight on your behalf and in your best interests so that your rights are protected and you can get back on with your life.
Knowledge of stop and frisk is just one of many essential elements of law that can often be utilized in select fact patterns that can lead to the suppression of evidence;evidence that could otherwise be used to wrongfully convict a client within my care.