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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 24, 2015

Kolyann Williams, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

Appeal from the Howard Superior Court. The Honorable William C. Menges, Jr., Judge. Case 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.

OPINION ON REHEARING

Bradford, Judge.

[¶ 1] On December 9, 2014, in a published opinion, we reversed Appellant-Defendant Kolyann Williams's conviction for Class A misdemeanor marijuana possession. Williams v. State, 22 N.E.3d 730 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014). We reversed Williams's conviction on the basis that the traffic stop that led to the discovery of marijuana in his possession was based on the police officer's mistaken belief that an infraction had occurred. Id. at 735. Appellee-Plaintiff the State of Indiana now petitions for rehearing, arguing that the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Heien v. N. Carolina, 135 S.Ct. 530, 190 L.Ed.2d 475 (2014), requires a different result. Heien held that reasonable mistakes of law, as well as fact, can give rise to reasonable suspicion under the Fourth Amendment.

Page 294

Id. at 536. Because we agree with the State, we grant its petition for rehearing and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

[¶ 2] In Heien, a case similar to this one, the defendant was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for having only one properly functioning brake light. Id. at 535. After being convicted of trafficking in cocaine, Heien appealed, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed on the basis that driving with only one working brake light was not actually a violation of North Carolina law, which provided that a car must be

equipped with a stop lamp on the rear of the vehicle. The stop lamp shall display a red or amber light visible from a distance of not less than 100 feet to the rear in normal sunlight, and shall be actuated upon application of the service (foot) brake. The stop lamp may be incorporated into a unit with one or more other rear lamps.

Id. (citations omitted).

[¶ 3] Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court took the case, and held as follows: " The question here is whether reasonable suspicion can rest on a mistaken understanding of the scope of a legal prohibition. We hold that it can." Id. at 536. The Court qualified this, requiring that the error of law be objectively reasonable. Id. at 540.

[¶ 4] The Heien Court had

little difficulty concluding that the officer's error of law was reasonable. Although the North Carolina statute at issue refers to " a stop lamp," suggesting the need for only a single working brake light, it also provides that " [t]he stop lamp may be incorporated into a unit with one or more other rear lamps." N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 20-129(g) (emphasis added). The use of " other" suggests to the everyday reader of English that a " stop lamp" is a type of " rear lamp." And another subsection of the same provision requires that vehicles " have all originally equipped rear lamps or the equivalent in good working order," § ...

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