Meredith v. State, No. 89A04-0703-CR-148.

Docket NºNo. 89A04-0703-CR-148.
Citation886 N.E.2d 79
Case DateMay 15, 2008
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana
886 N.E.2d 79
Kerry L. MEREDITH, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
No. 89A04-0703-CR-148.
Court of Appeals of Indiana.
May 15, 2008.

[886 N.E.2d 80]

E. Thomas Kemp, Richmond, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Steve Carter, Attorney General of Indiana, George P. Sherman, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

OPINION ON REHEARING

NAJAM, Judge.


The State has filed a petition for rehearing asking that we reconsider our holding that the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted into evidence cocaine found in the car of Kerry Meredith. See Meredith v. State, 878 N.E.2d 453 (Ind.Ct. App.2007) ("Meredith I"). In particular, the State asserts that the cocaine was admissible because it was obtained pursuant to a legitimate traffic stop for an improperly displayed temporary vehicle tag. We grant the State's petition for the sole purpose of clarifying that, while the initial traffic stop was legitimate, the investigating officer's probable cause or reasonable suspicion to detain Meredith had expired well before the discovery of cocaine in Meredith's vehicle.

A full statement of facts relevant to this appeal is described in our prior opinion and need not be recounted here at length. See id. at 454. Most notable to the State's petition for rehearing are these facts: when Officer Lackey pulled over Meredith's vehicle, a license plate was not apparent, leading Officer Lackey to initiate a traffic stop of Meredith's vehicle; after Officer Lackey exited his vehicle and approached Meredith's, Officer Lackey saw a temporary vehicle tag attached to the inside of Meredith's rear window; and upon seeing the temporary tag, Officer Lackey saw the expiration date and observed that it was still valid. But after having determined that the temporary tag was valid, Officer Lackey continued to detain Meredith and eventually obtained Meredith's consent to search the vehicle, which led to the discovery of the cocaine.

The threshold issue here is whether Officer Lackey had a reasonable suspicion to detain Meredith and, if so, on what grounds. As discussed in our prior opinion, it was within Officer Lackey's lawful discretion to initiate a traffic stop of Meredith on the grounds that Officer Lackey could not determine the validity of Meredith's temporary tag. We then went on to discuss how, once Officer Lackey had satisfied that purpose, Meredith could not be further detained. See Meredith I, 878 N.E.2d at 455 (quoting United States v. Hill, 195 F.3d 258, 264 (6th Cir.1999)). Thus, in an attempt to circumvent our reasoning in Meredith I, the State asserts on rehearing that the traffic stop continued to be justified after Officer Lackey verified the temporary tag's validity because that tag continued to be improperly displayed. We cannot agree.

"A police officer may stop a vehicle when he observes a minor traffic violation. A stop is lawful if there is an objectively justifiable reason for it, and the stop may be justified on less than probable cause." Ransom v. State, 741 N.E.2d 419, 421 (Ind.Ct.App.2000) (citation omitted), trans. denied.

It is the requirement of reasonable suspicion which strikes the balance between the government's legitimate interest in traffic safety and an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy. Reasonable suspicion entails some minimum level of

886 N.E.2d 81

objective evidentiary justification. Due weight must be given, not to the officer's inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or "hunch" but to the specific reasonable inferences which the officer is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his experience. A court sitting to determine the existence of reasonable suspicion must require the agent to articulate the factors leading to that conclusion.

Cash v. State, 593 N.E.2d 1267, 1268-69 (Ind.Ct.App.1992) (citations omitted).

In support of its position that Officer Lackey's objective justification for the traffic stop continued after he verified the temporary tag's validity, the State first references Indiana Code Sections 9-18-2-26(a)(3) and 9-19-6-4(e), each of which mandates display requirements for permanent license plates.1 The State also cites Merritt v. State, 829 N.E.2d 472, 476 (Ind. 2005), in which our Supreme Court held that a driver's failure to comply "with the Indiana statutory requirements concerning placement, secure attachment, illumination and legibility" of a permanent license plate "may serve as a basis for reasonable suspicion for law enforcement officers to make a traffic stop." But there are neither statutory nor regulatory requirements concerning the display of the temporary vehicle tag at issue here. See Merritt, 829 N.E.2d at 475-76 n. 14; see also Ind.Code § 9-18-26-10 (2005).2 Accordingly, those provisions of the Indiana Code, and Merritt, do not apply.

Recognizing the lack of legislative authority, agency regulation, and case law on the display of temporary tags such as

886 N.E.2d 82

Meredith's, the State asserts that our Legislature intended such...

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3 practice notes
  • Meredith v. State, No. 89S04-0808-CR-430.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • May 28, 2009
    ...274 Ind. 495, 413 N.E.2d 556 (1980). The Court of Appeals reversed. Meredith v. State, 878 N.E.2d 453 (Ind.Ct. App.2007), reh'g granted, 886 N.E.2d 79 (Ind.Ct.App.2008). We granted transfer and now affirm the conviction, concluding that police had reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant ......
  • United States v. Vanhouten, Cause No. 1:13-cr-98-WTL-DML
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • April 4, 2014
    ...that once he saw the tag, Officer Maples had no justifiable reason to continue his detention. In support, he relies on Meredith v. State, 886 N.E.2d 79 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008). The Court notes that this decision has been vacated by the Indiana Supreme Court in Meredith v. State, 906 N.E.2d 867......
  • Childs v. State, No. 49A02-0711-CR-944.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 15, 2008
    ...court erred by entering judgment of conviction for sexual battery as a class D felony, and we vacate that conviction.4 Moreover, due 886 N.E.2d 79 to double jeopardy, Childs cannot be retried on the child molesting as a class B felony or child molesting as a class C felony charges. See, e.g......
3 cases
  • Meredith v. State, No. 89S04-0808-CR-430.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • May 28, 2009
    ...274 Ind. 495, 413 N.E.2d 556 (1980). The Court of Appeals reversed. Meredith v. State, 878 N.E.2d 453 (Ind.Ct. App.2007), reh'g granted, 886 N.E.2d 79 (Ind.Ct.App.2008). We granted transfer and now affirm the conviction, concluding that police had reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant ......
  • United States v. Vanhouten, Cause No. 1:13-cr-98-WTL-DML
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • April 4, 2014
    ...that once he saw the tag, Officer Maples had no justifiable reason to continue his detention. In support, he relies on Meredith v. State, 886 N.E.2d 79 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008). The Court notes that this decision has been vacated by the Indiana Supreme Court in Meredith v. State, 906 N.E.2d 867......
  • Childs v. State, No. 49A02-0711-CR-944.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 15, 2008
    ...court erred by entering judgment of conviction for sexual battery as a class D felony, and we vacate that conviction.4 Moreover, due 886 N.E.2d 79 to double jeopardy, Childs cannot be retried on the child molesting as a class B felony or child molesting as a class C felony charges. See, e.g......

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