INDIANAPOLIS | A dime-size hole showing a bit of white light through an otherwise functional red vehicle tail lamp does not justify a police stop, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
A state trooper stopped a motorist on April 22, 2012, in Indianapolis for "a broken taillight," because the officer believed a cracked tail lamp was a violation of state law.
The driver later was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
In a 3-0 decision, the appeals panel said Indiana law does not explicitly prohibit driving with a cracked tail lamp, so long as it still emits a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.
Judge Nancy Vaidik, a Porter County native writing for the appeals court, said there's no requirement that "only" red light be visible from a tail lamp, just that red light must be visible from 500 feet.
The light in this case was "overwhelmingly" red, she said.
As a result, the court determined there was no legal reason for the trooper to stop the vehicle, and it ordered the drunk-driving evidence obtained after the stop to be suppressed.
The attorney general has 30 days to decide whether to request a rehearing or appeal the ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court.