Indiana Court of appeals reverses Elkhart womans conviction
Posted: 04/29/2013 at 5:45 pm
By: Sharon Hernandez
It was because, the court argues, the officer who made the traffic stop did not show enough reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle in the first place.
Joanna Robinson’s conviction and license suspension were vacated as a result of the court’s opinion. She was also discharged from probation immediately.
The court said none of the evidence found during the traffic stop should have been admitted to charge Robinson.
According to the court’s written opinion, Robinson, 37, was driving east on C.R. 4 the early morning of Oct. 15, 2011, when she saw a police unit signaling for her to stop. Casey Claeys, a deputy with the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, had decided to make a traffic stop on Robinson because of “unsafe lane movement.”
Claeys claimed Robinson’s vehicle drove off the right side of the road twice.
During the traffic stop, Claeys noticed Robinson had glossy, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Robinson admitted to having had a beer, and she failed three field sobriety tests. Without being asked, Robinson told Claeys she had marijuana in her bra, before shaking it off onto the roadway.
Robinson was charged with operating a vehicle while suspended, possession of marijuana, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of at least .08 per 210 liters of breath.
Robinson’s attorney, Peter Todd, had filed a motion to suppress the evidence found during the traffic stop, arguing that video from Claeys’ squad car showed Robinson stayed within her lane and that Claeys lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop in the first place.
But the motion was denied after a bench trial, in which Claeys was the only witness. The court also found Robinson guilty of possession of marijuana and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and sentenced her to one year on probation.
The court of appeals concluded that Robinson was driving late at night on a road with some curves. They found from reviewing the video from Claeys’ squad car that Robinson touched the fog line twice, but she immediately returned to her lane. The court of appeals mentioned in its written opinion that the trial court had acknowledged that Robinson’s driving was very similar to the driving of someone who was momentarily distracted.