By on July 14, 2010

A sheriff’s deputy in Noble County, Indiana blew a case against a man suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) after he drew his gun on the motorist without probable cause. The state court of appeals on Friday tossed the felony drunk driving conviction of Daniel C. Reinhart because of the actions of Deputy Carey Coney around 3am on August 6, 2008.

Coney had followed Reinhart’s white Jeep from Route 33 to Route 100 that morning. Reinhart swerved once over the center line before pulling into a driveway. Coney proceeded farther up the road before pulling into another driveway to watch. The Jeep pulled back on the road and headed toward the police car at 26 MPH in a 55 zone. Reinhart pulled into the next driveway, parked near the cruiser and yelled at Coney. Coney ordered Reinhart to get back on the road. Coney then followed him, waiting for a well-lit area to pull the Jeep over. After they stopped, Coney ordered Reinhart out of the vehicle at gunpoint. A second officer arrived on the scene and handcuffed Reinhart. A pat-down search revealed that Reinhart had been carrying a small quantity of marijuana. Reinhart failed a portable breathalyzer test with a reading of .15, nearly twice the legal limit.

The appeals court first determined that the initial traffic stop was justified because Coney was interested in checking the driver’s sobriety after seeing the swerve.

“It is well settled that police officers may stop a vehicle when they observe minor traffic violations,” Judge Terry A. Crone wrote for the three-judge panel.

The question then turned to whether holding Reinhart at gunpoint or placing him in handcuffs was something more than an investigatory traffic stop. The court found, based on a video recording of the incident, that Coney had taken steps beyond what was required for his own safety.

“Reinhart gave no indication that he was armed or dangerous,” Crone wrote. “Nevertheless, with the laser sight of Deputy’s Coney’s gun prominently fixed on him, Reinhart was ordered first to kneel with his hands behind his head for a period and then lie face down on the ground for an additional period of time while waiting for the second police officer to arrive. Reinhart was then handcuffed before he was searched twice. We believe that a reasonable person in Reinhart’s position would not have believed himself to be free to leave but instead would have considered his freedom of movement to have been restrained to the degree associated with a formal arrest.”

The court saw no choice but to throw out the evidence gathered after the unlawful arrest to deter police from exceeding their authority in the future.

“While we are mindful of the significant danger faced by police officers during traffic stops, we must balance the interests of officer safety with the privacy interests protected by the Fourth Amendment in requiring law enforcement to use the least intrusive means necessary to investigate a traffic stop,” Crone wrote. “Under the facts presented, this was more than a minimal deprivation of Reinhart’s liberty of movement necessary to confirm or dispel Deputy Coney’s suspicion that Reinhart was operating a vehicle while intoxicated… Accordingly, we reverse Reinhart’s convictions.”

A copy of the decision is available in a 260k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Reinhart v. Indiana (Court of Appeals, State of Indiana, 7/9/2010)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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18 Comments on “Indiana Appeals Court: Pulling Gun During Traffic Stop Requires Cause...”


  • avatar
    educatordan

    I kan’t have cheezeburgur?

    But seriously. I’ve never had a gun pulled on me by an officer but at night in a poorly lit area with a driver who’s behaving erratically, what’s the big deal?

    If the cop had pulled a gun on him in broad daylight after the guy pulled into a shopping mall parking lot, then I would see what the fuss was about.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I wonder how many of these judges have been in a poorly lit area in the middle of the night with somebody they didn’t know.

    Maybe I didn’t phrase that right.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Am I missing something? The second paragraph says the officer didn’t pull the Jeep over until it was in a well-lit area.

    Do you guys read?

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I think it’s a good ruling. Unless the driver has deliberately ignored repeated commands from the officer (such as getting out despite being told to remain in the vehicle) there’s no reason to pull a gun in this situation. I liken it to the video from the motorcycle helmet-cam in Maryland that got the guy prosecuted for recording an officer…that off-duty or plainclothes officer pulled a gun on the motorcyclist immediately after getting out of his car, which I find completely unnecessary.

    For the DUI case what was the big deal with just administering a field sobriety test? It probably would have given probable cause for an arrest and would have gone off without a hitch. If there were a hitch then the officer would have had cause to draw his gun and hold the guy.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    I think the problem was with the field sobriety tests (FST) being given after the display of the firearm and handcuffing. FSTs are supposed to be voluntary and the suspect can refuse them without additional penalties unlike the evidentiary test (usually an Intoxilyzer) given at the station after arrest. if the suspect refuses to perform FSTs, the officer can then arrest or not for DUI without them, depending on what other factors he observed and can articulate. You don’t have to have FSTs to articulate probable cause for a DUI arrest, but it really helps, particularly if the case ends up going to trial. If the suspect is cuffed or otherwise forcibly detained prior to the FSTs, then his consent to them can not be considered volutary. The results of those FSTs will then be tossed, as they were in this case. The case could still proceed based upon other evidence, if any was available.

    The news article makes it sound like the issue was that cops can’t pull their guns absent some high standard of threat or perceived threat. That’s not accurate, IMO. The issue was whether the suspect’s consent to the FST was voluntary in the wake of such a display of force. The use of force was legit, but the subsequent investigation was tainted because of it. That’s one of the many tightropes cops have to walk: Safety of officers and everyone else involved in the case vs. gathering additional evidence to make a stronger case. If you err on the side of safety, you may lose evidence. If you err on the side of evidence gathering, safety may be put at risk. It happens in all kinds of cases, not just traffic offenses. For example, the police may have a suspect that they believed to be a serial rapist based upon witness statements and one or more victims picking him out of a line- up, but they are going to have to wait for DNA testing to have definitive proof. DNA testing, even on a “rush” or “priority one” request takes days or weeks. Do you leave the rapist free to rape again until the test results come back or do you go ahead and snatch him up with what you got?

    Personally, I wouldn’t have gotten greedy for the DUI. In KY we have a charge cause Reckless Driving- Had Been Drinking. It’s a lesser included type of offense, with a lower standard of proof. It’s perfect for times when you observe the suspect’s driving to be horrific, detect other signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, bloodshot watery eyes, and a strog odor of alcoholic beverages on or about the suspect’s person, but you don’t have any FSTs for one reason or another. Hook the suspect up for that, find the weed during search incident to arrest, charge him with possession and call it done.

  • avatar
    1169hp

    Or

    Deputy Coney has had prior contacts with Reinhart and knows his disposition. There are citizens that local law enforcement get to know qiute well. Said citizens are called “Frequent Fliers”.

    If Reinhart is a “Frequent Flier”, I’d probably draw down on him.

    • 0 avatar
      ott

      That sounds plausible. That, and the fact the idiot was dumb enough to pull up beside the cop and start yelling at him. That always goes over well for a smooth traffic stop.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    One wonders what Reinhart yelled at Coney when he parked the second time near the cruiser. Was it threatening?

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’ve had AK47’s pointed at me in traffic stops when I lived and worked in Moscow. This is nothing.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    Yuppie

    “Coney ordered Reinhart to get back on the road. Coney then followed him, waiting for a well-lit area to pull the Jeep over.”

    So the policeman ordered someone whom he suspects was driving drunk to get back on the road? Talk about bad judgment, even before a gun was involved.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      Yeah, I noticed that one too, and it gave me pause. Why would you order someone who appears to be drunk to get back on the road and drive? I know the answer from the story, but is that proper protection of the public safety and welfare?

  • avatar

    Don’t worry, this guy will be followed by the cops and pulled over for every little infraction. Harrasement yes, getting another drunk off the road is fine by me.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Between this and the case from the other day where the conviction was thrown out for the officer illegally detaining the suspect I’m starting to get the feeling that we are finally starting to back away from our progress towards a police state. It isn’t ideal that two drunk drivers are back on the roads (well, at least the first guy was habitual, they don’t say about this one), but that is a small price to pay for safeguarding the rights of citizens from unlawful police action.

  • avatar

    +1 NulloModo

  • avatar
    nrd515

    As someone who was nearly shot by the police, all I can say is that once the gun comes out, everything changes in the cop’s favor, and you do as you’re told, if you have any sense. The cops need to follow the rules, and if they don’t, the person charged should walk.

    I was walking back to my car one night, and suddenly a cop car flies up, and the two cops inside come out with guns drawn. For a second, I didn’t think they were yelling and pointing at me, and I stupidly put my hand in my pocket, and was very close to getting shot. They grabbed me and threw me against the car and started yelling something about “Why did you beat her up?”. Of course, I had no idea what they were talking about. When I didn’t admit beating up anyone, the older cop got very angry, and slammed my face down on the hood of the car a couple of times, and I said, “Hitting my face on the car isn’t going to make me know what you’re talking about”. He continued to yell about me beating up some woman, and it comes out she was an old lady and was in “bad shape”. About that time, they get another description, and it should have been obvious at that point I wasn’t the right guy, but they kept on telling me that if she died, I would get the chair, etc. A sergeant came by, took a look at me, and said, “He doesn’t even come close to the description! Too big, and the guy had a mustache, this guy has a beard!”, and the younger cop seemed to get it, but the older cop said, “I’m telling you, he’s dirty!”. The SGT shook his head, and said, “Get back on the street!”, and took off. For over two hours, I stood there, and answered his ridiculous questions, over and over again, and he searched my car, tearing holes in the seats while doing it, on purpose. Finally, he gave up, and let me go. I didn’t know it, but he wouldn’t forget me. No, not at all.

    About 15 months later, I bought a new truck. The guy in front of me at the DMV had an identical truck as mine, same color, etc. We got sequential plate numbers, with his being BXXX00, and mine being BXXX01. Almost immediately, I started hearing his plate over the scanner, wanted for a bunch of stuff. He never made a single payment on it either. A couple weeks after I got it, I got pulled over, it was the older cop who almost shot me. He acted like he didn’t know me, at first, but it became clear he did remember me. He ran me, and screwed around for a while, and let me go. He mentioned that they were looking for the other truck, but didn’t say much. A few days later, I was pulled over by another cop, and ticketed for no turn signal. Like I was the only one not doing it.
    Then I began getting pulled over, again and again, by the same four cops, all of them about 40 years old. They always used the other identical truck for an excuse. I was getting angry and I nearly got arrested several times because I became very hostile. One time, I was face to face with one of them, and he was telling me to back off, and about the time I think he was about to beat the crap out of me, my boss pulled up and yelled at the cop he needed me at work ASAP. My boss told me later that he didn’t believe me when I told him about being stopped all the time until he heard me yelling at the cop about it.

    Finally, I went to talk to the detective who had the case when I was robbed right after I was nearly shot. When I told him about the four cops, he smiled and took me to see his brother in law in internal affairs, who had me pick them out of a book full of pics. They started on the job at the same time, and were drinking buddies. He then told me to keep a notebook of when and where I was stopped, and by which cop. Some days I was pulled over 3 or 4 times, so I soon filled up one of those little shirtpocket notebooks. I went back to Int Affairs, and they pulled their logs and found they the cops often claimed they had been back in service when they were still sitting there pulled over, just to screw with me. The IA guy asked me what I wanted done with these guys, and I told them I just wanted to be left alone, and I wanted the cop who almost shot me to pay for my seats, about 100 bucks. I should have sued the dept, but I just wanted it to stop. About a week later, the cop who almost shot me called to apologize, and I soon got a check for $100. The other cops called me too, and two of them told me the first cop had them stop me as a way to disrupt my “drug business”. I was living in a crappy apartment, with my dogs, no girlfriend, and was having trouble paying my bills, and I had a “drug business”?. I wish.

    One good thing came out of it, I was “hands off” for about 2 years, as far as tickets, etc went. I was given a warning for a lot of stuff I should have been written up for.

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