State v. Morris, No. 50A03-0001-CR-15.

Docket NºNo. 50A03-0001-CR-15.
Citation732 N.E.2d 224
Case DateJuly 19, 2000
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

732 N.E.2d 224

STATE of Indiana, Appellant-Plaintiff,
Brant MORRIS, Appellee-Defendant

No. 50A03-0001-CR-15.

Court of Appeals of Indiana.

July 19, 2000.

732 N.E.2d 226
Jeffrey A. Modisett, Attorney General of Indiana, Thomas D. Perkins, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana, Attorneys for Appellant

James E. Easterday, Easterday & Ummel, Plymouth, Indiana, Attorney for Appellee.

732 N.E.2d 225


The State of Indiana appeals the trial court's grant of Brant D. Morris's motion to suppress evidence. The State presents one issue for our review, which we restate as: whether the trial court properly suppressed evidence obtained during a traffic stop made to investigate a violation of the Indiana Seatbelt Enforcement Act. IND. CODE § 9-19-10-3 (1998).

We reverse.

Facts and Procedural History

On September 6, 1998, Culver City Police Officer Steve Huskins was on patrol as part of Operation Pull Over, a state subsidized law enforcement program that puts extra officers on the road at certain times to look for traffic violations and drivers under the influence of alcohol. At approximately 1:05 a.m., Officer Huskins observed Morris driving without wearing the shoulder restraint of his seatbelt. Officer Huskins initiated a traffic stop for the purpose of issuing Morris a warning for failure to wear his seatbelt. When Officer Huskins asked Morris for his driver's license and registration, Morris stated that he did not have his driver's license with him, but provided Officer Huskins with his name and vehicle registration. Morris remained inside his vehicle while Officer Huskins ran a driver's license check through the Marshall County Sheriff's Department, which revealed that Morris's license was suspended. Officer Huskins thereupon returned to Morris's vehicle and asked him to step out of it. When Morris exited his vehicle, Officer Huskins detected the odor of alcoholic beverage on Morris's breath and asked Morris if he had been drinking. Morris responded affirmatively and agreed to take a chemical breath test, which revealed a breath alcohol content of 0.10.

Morris was charged with driving while suspended, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and operating a vehicle with at least ten-hundredths percent of alcohol in his breath. Because Morris had a previous conviction for operating while intoxicated, the later two charges were elevated to Class D felonies.

Morris subsequently filed a motion to suppress the evidence of his license suspension and his intoxication, arguing that the evidence was obtained in violation of the Indiana Seatbelt Enforcement Act. After a hearing, the trial court granted Morris's motion to suppress. The State appeals.1

732 N.E.2d 227
Discussion and Decision

In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we review the record for substantial evidence of probative value to support the trial court's determination. Willsey v. State, 698 N.E.2d 784, 789 (Ind.1998), reh. denied. We do not reweigh the evidence or reassess the credibility of witnesses. We resolve conflicting evidence in favor of the trial court and consider any substantial uncontroverted evidence. Id. Where the issue presented on appeal is a question of law, however, we review the matter de novo. State v. Moss-Dwyer, 686 N.E.2d 109, 110 (Ind.1997).

The trial court based its decision to suppress the evidence on its interpretation of the Indiana Supreme Court's recent decision in Baldwin v. Reagan, 715 N.E.2d 332 (Ind.1999). Specifically, the trial court interpreted our Supreme Court's discussion of the second sentence of the Seatbelt Enforcement Act in Baldwin to prohibit Officer Huskins's conduct subsequent to the traffic stop of Morris. In reaching this conclusion the trial court stated, "I.C. X-XX-XX-X requires that when a stop to determine a seat belt law is made, the police are strictly prohibited from determining anything else, even if another law would permit further investigation and inquiry." R. at 55. The trial court went on to conclude that "the stop by Officer Huskins is a violation of the principles as set forth in Baldwin vs. Reagan and the strict and narrow interpretation given of the Indiana seat belt statute by the Attorney General [in Baldwin ]." Id.

We reverse because we disagree with the trial court's interpretation of Baldwin. We acknowledge, however, that the trial court made its decision in this case without the benefit of Trigg v. State, 725 N.E.2d 446, 449 (Ind.Ct.App.2000) (discussing Baldwin and holding that Seatbelt Enforcement Act cannot reasonably be interpreted to prohibit a patdown search for weapons when justified under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21-22, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968)).

In Baldwin, our Supreme Court was called upon to determine the constitutionality of the Seatbelt Enforcement Act, which provides that: "[a] vehicle may be stopped to determine compliance with this chapter. However, a vehicle, the contents of a vehicle, the driver of a vehicle, or a passenger in a vehicle may not be inspected, searched, or detained solely because of a violation of this chapter."

Baldwin, 715 N.E.2d at 337; IC X-XX-XX-X. The court concluded that the statute is constitutional because "there is a reasonable interpretation of the act which is constitutional." Id. at 339. We believe that Baldwin stands only for the proposition that the Seatbelt...

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23 cases
  • Lucas v. State, 03A01–1309–CR–389.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 14 Agosto 2014
    ...circumstances arise after the stop, which independently provide the officer with reasonable suspicion of other crimes.” State v. Morris, 732 N.E.2d 224, 228 (Ind.Ct.App.2000). In the present case, it is undisputed that Sergeant Weisner was justified in stopping Lucas for driving with an inv......
  • State v. Glass, 21A01-0201-CR-43.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 10 Junio 2002 appeal the trial court's suppression of evidence where the suppression effectively precludes further prosecution. State v. Morris, 732 N.E.2d 224, 226 n. 1 5. The State asserts that, because it is appealing from a negative judgment, this court considers only the evidence most favorable t......
  • Harris v. State, 83A01–1509–CR–1311.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 27 Julio 2016
    ...suspicion that would justify further inquiry during the seat belt enforcement stop. Id. at 384.[8] By contrast, in State v. Morris, 732 N.E.2d 224 (Ind.Ct.App.2000), the defendant failed to produce his driver's license during a seat belt enforcement stop, which prompted the officer to run a......
  • In Re Adoption Of L.D.A.B., 49A02-0907-CV-671.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 25 Febrero 2010
    ...purposes of this appeal, construe the statute in the same manner in order to avoid the absurd result noted above. See State v. Morris, 732 N.E.2d 224, 228 (Ind.Ct.App.2000). 12. In her appellate brief Mother asserts, without citation to any legal authority, that Ja.D.'s testimony regarding ......
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