The United States Supreme Court is being asked to review the legality of a Porter County traffic stop that, if left to stand, would further erode the constitutional rights of all motorists, Highland-based attorney Michael Campbell believes.
Campbell filed the petition for writ of certiorari after the Indiana Supreme Court in February upheld a local court's ruling that Hebron Reserve Officer Sean Dolan satisfied the reasonable suspicion standard before stopping Zachariah Marshall, of West Lafayette, on Oct. 29, 2016 and arresting him on charges of operating while intoxicated.
The state supreme court ruling was sought by prosecutors after the state appellate court overturned the local court's ruling.
"The law is pretty clear that an officer needs, at a minimum, reasonable suspicion to pull a motorist over for an alleged traffic violation," Campbell said in a prepared statement. "In cases like this that involve a traffic stop, the question becomes whether the facts known by the officer at the time of the stop give rise to reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation occurred. That's a tough question to answer in this case and its a question that's been answered differently by intelligent judges beginning at the trial court and up though the Indiana Supreme Court."
The officer in the case said he stopped Marshall for speeding, but when later questioned by the defense, was unable to say what the speed limit was on the road in question, according to the U.S. Supreme Court petition. He guessed that it was 40 mph, but later testified during a court hearing that he learned it was 50 mph after revisiting the location.
Dolan said he used a police radar, but never made any documentation of Marshall's speed, according to the petition. He did not know the exact speed, but said he knew it was above the posted speed limit.
"'So, again, all we (have) to go on is essentially your word and no objective proof; its simply your word that (Marshall) was going over the posted speed limit' to which he responded "Correct,'" the petition says Dolan was asked and responded to in court.
Campbell argues that the Fourth Amendment's reasonable suspicion standard is supposed to protect motorists from stops where a police officer is unable to provide an actual or estimated speed to justify allegations of speeding.
"All that Reserve Officer Dolan was able to admit was that he did not recall how fast Marshall's vehicle was travelling; he just makes the conclusory statement that he was going over the speed limit," Campbell wrote in his petition.
He said if the Indiana Supreme Court's decision is not overturned, "The case will be relied upon by other federal and state courts to further erode the reasonable suspicion standard."
Porter Superior Court Judge David Chidester ruled last week that Marshall's criminal case will move forward rather than waiting to see if it is taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chidester, who downplayed the likelihood that the nation's top court will take up the case, rejected a request by the defense to wait, in part, because of the age of the case.
He scheduled a July 29 jury trial, but said if it ends in a guilty finding, he will hold off on sentencing until after there is word from the Supreme Court.