APPEAL FROM THE HOWARD SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable William C. Menges, Jr., Judge. Cause No. 34D01-1402-CM-101.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CRAIG A. DECHERT, Howard County Deputy Public Defender, Kokomo, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana, LARRY D. ALLEN, Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.
BRADFORD, Judge. NAJAM, J., and MATHIAS, J., concur.
Appellant/Defendant Kolyann Williams was pulled over
by Kokomo Police Officer Jeff Packard when Officer Packard noticed that one of
the tail lamps on Williams's vehicle had a hole and was emitting white light. As
Packard approached the vehicle, he detected the odor of marijuana. After a
police canine alerted to the presence of drugs in Williams's vehicle, Officer
Packard retrieved a bag containing marijuana from Williams's person. Appellee/Plaintiff
the State of Indiana ("the State") charged Williams with Class A misdemeanor
marijuana possession, and the trial court found him guilty as charged, sentenced
him to 365 days of incarceration, and suspended 363 days to probation. Williams
contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because
Officer Packard's stop was illegal. Because we conclude that Officer Packard did
not have reasonable suspicion to believe that Williams had committed an
infraction, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
While patrolling during the midnight shift of
February 15, 2014, Officer Packard noticed a 1988 black Oldsmobile Cutlass in
front of him and "observed that the passenger side taillight had a large hole in
it that was allowing a significant amount of while light to emit out of it while
it was in forward motion." Tr. p. 6. According to Officer Packard, the hole was
the size of approximately forty to fifty percent of the entire tail lamp with a
"miniscule" amount of red light emitting from around the outer rim. Officer
Packard observed Williams's vehicle from approximately 300 to 700 feet away, and
described the "unfiltered" white light as "overwhelming" the "filtered red light
whose source was the same bulb." Tr. pp. 11-12. Officer Packard believed that
any white light emitting from the rear of a vehicle in forward motion was a
Officer Packard initiated a traffic stop and detected
the faint odor of marijuana coming from inside. Officer Packard called for
backup, and another officer
brought a canine, which canine indicated the presence of drugs
in Williams's vehicle. Williams admitted that he had a "smoke bag" in his
pocket, and Officer Packard found a plastic baggie of ...