5/19/2016Indiana: Court Rejects Arrest Of Woman Who Ran Over Self
Indiana Court of Appeals rejects traffic stop of a woman who had run over herself with her BMW.
An Indiana police officer had no business pulling over a woman simply because she had run herself over earlier in the day. That was the conclusion of the Indiana Court of Appeals last week in reviewing the case of Mary Osborne, who on December 14, 2014 forgot to use the parking brake on her black BMW at a Marathon gas station in Fishers. The car rolled backward and briefly pinned her under the car.
The gas station attendant called 911, and Officer Jason Arnold arrived on the scene, only to notice that the BMW was safely driving away. Officer Arnold decided to stop her anyway.
"Due to the nature of the call, I felt that it was necessary to stop the individual and check on [her] welfare," the officer testified. "It's not very normal activity. It's not every day I receive this kind of call so I thought it was necessary to check on the welfare and the well-being of the individual."
At the side of the road, it was clear that Osborne had no external injuries, and she explained that she was "fine" and did not need any medical treatment. Officer Arnold would not let it drop. He continued to ask questions.
"I didn't know if maybe she has something else going on, what was it that caused this or whatever," Officer Arnold testified. "And I asked her what happened... what caused her to get trapped underneath her vehicle."
By now, it had become clear that Osborne had been drinking. She was taken to the Hamilton County Jail where a breathalyzer registered a 0.10 reading. She was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Osborne wants the breath evidence thrown out, arguing Officer Arnold had no business stopping her in the first place. The three-judge appellate panel had to decide whether the "community caretaking" exemption to the Fourth Amendment right not to be seized without reasonable suspicion applies to this case.
The three-judge panel reviewed what other courts have done in similar cases and was most impressed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court's approach, which considers the circumstances of a seizure and the effectiveness of any alternatives to it. The Indiana judges did not see any urgency in pulling over Osborne.
"The fact that Osborne freed herself from her 'stuck' position and was able to safely drive her vehicle without any incident indicates that the situation did not warrant immediate assistance," Judge Patricia A. Riley wrote for the court. "If Osborne had desired medical attention, she could have easily asked for help at the gas station instead of driving away."
The court suppressed the DUI evidence as illegally obtained. A copy of the ruling is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.