Robinson v. State, No. 20S04–1307–CR–471.

Docket NºNo. 20S04–1307–CR–471.
Citation5 N.E.3d 362
Case DateMarch 25, 2014
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

5 N.E.3d 362

Joanna S. ROBINSON, Appellant (Defendant below),
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).

No. 20S04–1307–CR–471.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

March 25, 2014.


[5 N.E.3d 363]


Peter D. Todd, Elkhart, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Kyle Hunter, James B. Martin, Kelly A. Miklos, Deputy Attorneys General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.


On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 20A04–1209–CR–561

MASSA, Justice.

As the two companion appeals we resolve today vividly illustrate, sometimes standards of review decide cases.1 In the instant case, the trial court found law enforcement had reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop and admitted the resulting evidence; in State v. Keck, No. 67S01–1403–CR–179, 4 N.E.3d 1180, 2014 WL 1226230 (Ind. Mar.25, 2014), the trial court reached the opposite conclusion. We affirm both trial courts and decline appellants'

[5 N.E.3d 364]

invitation to invade the fact-finder's province.

Facts and Procedural History

Around 1:00 a.m. on October 15, 2011, Deputy Casey Claeys of the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department was following another vehicle down County Road 4. Deputy Claeys later testified he saw the vehicle “drive off the right side, which was the south side of the road, twice.” Tr. at 24. Immediately after the second incident, he turned on his vehicle camera and initiated a traffic stop for “unsafe lane movement.” Tr. at 24. The camera, once activated, retroactively records the previous thirty seconds.

Deputy Claeys later testified that when he approached the vehicle, he noticed the driver, Joanna S. Robinson, “had glossy, blood shot eyes, slurred speech ... and the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her breath.” Tr. at 26. Upon questioning, Robinson admitted she had drunk one beer, and Deputy Claeys proceeded to conduct standard field sobriety tests on her. After she failed three of the tests, Robinson told Deputy Claeys she had marijuana concealed in her clothing; she then removed the marijuana and dropped it onto the ground. At that point, Deputy Claeys took Robinson into custody and transported her to the Elkhart County Jail, where a chemical test showed her blood-alcohol level was 0.09.

The Elkhart County Prosecutor charged Robinson with three Class A misdemeanors (operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license,2 possession of marijuana,3 and operating a vehicle while intoxicated 4) and one Class C misdemeanor (operating with a breath-alcohol level over 0.08 5 ). By counsel, Robinson moved to suppress all the evidence against her, arguing Deputy Claeys did not have reasonable suspicion to justify the stop because Robinson “never left her lane of traffic in any form.” App. at 23. Pursuant to the parties' agreement, the trial court considered Robinson's motion in conjunction with the evidence presented at her bench trial, which included Deputy Claeys's testimony, blood and breath test evidence, and the video from the camera on Deputy Claeys's vehicle. The trial court also heard final argument from both parties; the State encouraged the court to credit Deputy Claeys's testimony over the videotape, while the defendant urged the opposite.

Ultimately, the trial court denied Robinson's motion to suppress. Citing State v. McCaa, 963 N.E.2d 24, 31 (Ind.Ct.App.2012) (finding reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop when the defendant drove “slowly and off of the roadway twice”), the trial court stated it “reviewed the video on approximately ten occasions and cannot conclude from the video that the defendant's vehicle actually left the roadway ... but it does show the vehicle veering on two occasions onto the white fog line.” App. at 33. The trial court noted, however, that it was “quite possible that the officer's actual visual observation of the defendant's vehicle was superior to the video camera in his car.” App. at 33. After considering all of this evidence, the trial court concluded this case was “perhaps a closer call” than McCaa, but that “the act of weaving onto the fog line, while not itself an illegal act, did give a trained police officer justification to stop and inquire further as to the driver's condition.” App. at 33, 34. The trial court then found Robinson guilty of

[5 N.E.3d 365]

possession of marijuana, operating while intoxicated, and operating with a breath-alcohol level over 0.08. It merged the latter two convictions and sentenced her to one year of imprisonment for each conviction, to run concurrently and suspended to probation.

Robinson appealed, arguing the trial court wrongly denied her motion to suppress. A panel of our Court of Appeals agreed and reversed her conviction. Robinson v. State, 985 N.E.2d 1141, 1148 (Ind.Ct.App.2013).

We granted transfer, thereby vacating the opinion below. Robinson v. State, 990 N.E.2d 945 (Ind.2013) (table); Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

Standard of Review

Our justice system entrusts the admission of evidence to the trial court's sound discretion. Schmitt v. State, 730 N.E.2d 147, 148 (Ind.2000). We review a trial court's denial of a defendant's motion to suppress deferentially, construing conflicting evidence in the light most favorable to the ruling, but we will also consider any substantial and uncontested evidence favorable to the defendant. Holder v. State, 847 N.E.2d 930, 935 (Ind.2006) (citing Murphy v. State, 747 N.E.2d 557, 559 (Ind.2001); Ogle v. State, 698 N.E.2d 1146, 1148–49 (Ind.1998)). We defer to the trial court's findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous, and we will not reweigh the evidence. Campos v. State, 885 N.E.2d 590, 596 (Ind.2008) (citing State v. Quirk, 842 N.E.2d 334, 340 (Ind.2006)). When the trial court's denial of a defendant's motion to suppress concerns the constitutionality of a search or seizure, however, it presents a question of law, and we address that question de novo. Id. (citing Myers v. State, 839 N.E.2d 1146, 1150 (Ind.2005)).

The Trial Court Correctly Denied Robinson's Motion to Suppress

Robinson argues Deputy Claeys lacked reasonable suspicion to stop her vehicle and thus violated her rights under both the federal and state constitutions.6 As a threshold matter, both parties dispute the significance of the video evidence. Robinson notes the trial court conceded the video “did not clearly demonstrate that Robinson's vehicle veered off the roadway ... but speculated that the officer's observations at the scene were superior to his in-car camera.” Appellant's Br. at 2. The State, on the other hand, cautions us not to “rest [our] determination on minutia of an imperfect and rudimentary video.” Appellee's Br. at 8.

While technology marches on, the appellate standard of review remains constant. As we said above, we do not reweigh the evidence. Our colleagues in other states have taken a similar approach when faced with video evidence.

[5 N.E.3d 366]

State v. Vanscoyk, No. A–12–024, 2012 WL 6580786 at *6 (Neb.Ct.App. Dec. 18, 2012) (“Vanscoyk essentially asks us to reweigh evidence and witness credibility to determine whether Officer Kowalewski's testimony is credible in light of the video. This is not the appropriate province of an appellate court.”); State v. Gross, No. 107320, 2012 WL 3136809 at *4 (Kan.Ct.App. July 27, 2012) (“We do not reweigh the evidence, and the district court's conclusion that the video was ‘the clearest evidence’ is not contrary to any uncontested testimony.”); State v. White, No. E2010–02238–CCA–R3CD, 2011 WL 5335471 (Tenn.Crim.App. Nov. 2, 2011) (declining, in a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence for a conviction for drunk driving, to reweigh the evidence and find a video recording more reliable than eyewitness testimony). 7

We do not believe, however, as some of our colleagues in other jurisdictions do, that the very act of reviewing video evidence constitutes impermissible appellate reweighing. State v. Rascon, No. 30,561, 2011 WL 704472 at *2 (N.M.Ct.App. Jan. 14, 2011)cert. denied,2011–NMCERT–003, 150 N.M. 619, 264 P.3d 520 (2011) (table) (declining even to review a video of a traffic stop in a reasonable suspicion case on the ground that doing so would amount to reweighing the evidence). Rather, we consider video evidence admitted in the trial court to be a necessary part of the record on appeal, just like any other type of evidence. But see Nava v. Kan. Dep't of Revenue, 281 P.3d 597 (Kan.Ct.App.2012) (table), 2012 WL 3135902 at *4 (“the Department asks us to reweigh not only the witness[es]' testimony but also the district court's factual determination regarding the video evidence without having even included a copy of the video in the record on appeal.”).

And just like any other type of evidence, video is subject to conflicting interpretations. In Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007), Justice Scalia, writing for the majority of the Court, described a videotape as showing “a Hollywood-style car chase of the most frightening sort, placing police officers and innocent bystanders alike at great risk of serious injury.” Id. at 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769. Based largely on his impression of that video, he concluded police were justified in using deadly force to end the pursuit. Id. at 386, 127 S.Ct. 1769. Justice Stevens, dissenting, described the very same video as “hardly the stuff of Hollywood” and opined it did not show “any incidents that could even be remotely characterized as ‘close calls.’ ” Id. at 392, 127 S.Ct. 1769 (Stevens, J., dissenting).

What is more, “the video record may ‘speak for itself,’ but it does not and cannot speak for the visual input a judge observes and interprets that falls outside the scope of the camera, nor does it filter events and behavior through his or her experience and expertise.” Bernadette Mary Donovan, Note, Deference in A Digital Age: The Video Record and Appellate Review, 96 Va. L. Rev. 643, 676 (2010). Although this statement was made in the context of a discussion of...

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99 practice notes
  • State v. Griffin, SC 20439
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 22 Julio 2021
    ...453 F.3d 10, 13 (1st Cir. 2006); United States v. Navarro-Camacho, 186 F.3d 701, 707-708 (6th Cir. 1999); Robinson v. State, 5 N.E.3d 362, 365-66 (Ind. 2014); State v. Williams, 334 S.W.3d 177, 180-82 (Mo. App. 2011); State v. Elders, 192 N.J. 224, 244-45, 927 A.2d 1250 (2007); Montanez v. ......
  • Bayer Corp. v. Leach, Court of Appeals Case No. 19A-CT-625
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 19 Agosto 2020
    ...supported by "cogent reasoning" and citations to the "Appendix or parts of the Record on Appeal relied on"); see Robinson v. State , 5 N.E.3d 362, 365 n.6 (Ind. 2014) (identifying appellate waiver where a party did not adequately develop an argument).Conclusion[74] Bayer is entitled to judg......
  • State v. Griffin, SC 20439
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 22 Julio 2021
    ..., 453 F.3d 10, 13 (1st Cir. 2006) ; United States v. Navarro-Camacho , 186 F.3d 701, 707–708 (6th Cir. 1999) ; Robinson v. State , 5 N.E.3d 362, 365–66 (Ind. 2014) ; State v. Williams , 334 S.W.3d 177, 180–82 (Mo. App. 2011) ; State v. Elders , 192 N.J. 224, 244–45, 927 A.2d 1250 (2007) ; M......
  • Osborne v. State, No. 29A02–1511–CR–1931.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 12 Mayo 2016
    ...the constitutionality of a search or seizure, ... it presents a question of law, and we address that question de novo.” Robinson v. State, 5 N.E.3d 362, 365 (Ind.2014).II. Fourth Amendment [11] Osborne claims that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress the evidence obtained......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
99 cases
  • State v. Griffin, SC 20439
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 22 Julio 2021
    ...453 F.3d 10, 13 (1st Cir. 2006); United States v. Navarro-Camacho, 186 F.3d 701, 707-708 (6th Cir. 1999); Robinson v. State, 5 N.E.3d 362, 365-66 (Ind. 2014); State v. Williams, 334 S.W.3d 177, 180-82 (Mo. App. 2011); State v. Elders, 192 N.J. 224, 244-45, 927 A.2d 1250 (2007); Montanez v. ......
  • Bayer Corp. v. Leach, Court of Appeals Case No. 19A-CT-625
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 19 Agosto 2020
    ...supported by "cogent reasoning" and citations to the "Appendix or parts of the Record on Appeal relied on"); see Robinson v. State , 5 N.E.3d 362, 365 n.6 (Ind. 2014) (identifying appellate waiver where a party did not adequately develop an argument).Conclusion[74] Bayer is entitled to judg......
  • State v. Griffin, SC 20439
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 22 Julio 2021
    ..., 453 F.3d 10, 13 (1st Cir. 2006) ; United States v. Navarro-Camacho , 186 F.3d 701, 707–708 (6th Cir. 1999) ; Robinson v. State , 5 N.E.3d 362, 365–66 (Ind. 2014) ; State v. Williams , 334 S.W.3d 177, 180–82 (Mo. App. 2011) ; State v. Elders , 192 N.J. 224, 244–45, 927 A.2d 1250 (2007) ; M......
  • Osborne v. State, No. 29A02–1511–CR–1931.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 12 Mayo 2016
    ...the constitutionality of a search or seizure, ... it presents a question of law, and we address that question de novo.” Robinson v. State, 5 N.E.3d 362, 365 (Ind.2014).II. Fourth Amendment [11] Osborne claims that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress the evidence obtained......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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