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Osborne v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

November 29, 2016

Mary Osborne, Appellant (Defendant below),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).

         Appeal from the Hamilton Superior Court, No. 29D04-1412-CM-10052 The Honorable J. Richard Campbell, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 29A02-1511-CR-1931

          Attorney for Appellant Jennifer M. Lukemeyer Voyles Zahn & Paul Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Angela N. Sanchez Stephen R. Creason Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Massa, Justice.

         Mary Osborne filed this interlocutory appeal following the trial court's denial of her motion to suppress, on the grounds that the traffic stop giving rise to the charges was not permissible under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Although we believe the officer's actions in this case were prompted by a genuine desire to serve and protect, we hold that, under the circumstances, those actions constituted an improper intrusion upon Osborne's constitutional privileges against unreasonable search and seizure. Accordingly, we reverse.

         Facts and Procedural History

         At approximately 1:00AM, a clerk working at a Marathon gas station in Fishers, Indiana called the police to report that a woman was "stuck underneath her vehicle in the parking lot." Tr. at 13. The clerk described the vehicle as a "black passenger car, possibly a BMW, " and provided a license plate number. Tr. at 14. Officer Jason Arnold was participating in an OWI investigation about a mile and a half away when he received the report, and by the time he arrived, dispatch had informed him that the woman had "gotten herself out from under the vehicle and was leaving." Tr. at 15. As he pulled in, he saw Osborne's black BMW pulling out from the station. He made a U-turn and followed her, but did not witness any driving infractions or criminal conduct. Nevertheless, Officer Arnold initiated a traffic stop on the basis of the dispatch report, fearing for her well-being: "I was concerned that [the driver] potentially could have been seriously injured, broken bones or anything. Or something was wrong with them that started this whole thing to begin with because it's not normal behavior." Tr. at 17.

         After pulling her over, Officer Arnold approached Osborne's driver's side door and shone his flashlight into the car, where he observed no signs of physical injury. He asked her to roll down her window, and she complied; when Officer Arnold asked if she was hurt, Osborne indicated that she was fine, and denied his offer of medical care. Osborne also explained why she got stuck: her car has a manual transmission, and she had neglected to engage her parking brake, causing it to roll backwards as she exited.

         During this exchange, Officer Arnold detected the odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle, and observed several signs of impairment, such as her watery, red eyes, and slurred speech. Officer Arnold asked Osborne if she had been drinking, and she said she had had a beer an hour earlier. Osborne then failed several field sobriety tests, and a portable breathalyzer indicated her blood alcohol level was 0.12. She was arrested, and at the Hamilton County jail her blood alcohol concentration tested at 0.10.

         Osborne was charged with Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated in a manner that endangers a person, and Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08. Osborne moved to suppress the evidence, claiming the warrantless traffic stop was invalid under both the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The trial court denied the motion, but certified its order for interlocutory appeal. Our Court of Appeals agreed with Osborne, finding that the police exceeded their authority under the Fourth Amendment in stopping her vehicle. Osborne v. State, 54 N.E.3d 428, 439 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016).

         We granted transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals opinion below. Osborne v. State, 57 N.E.3d 816 (Ind. 2016) (table); Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

         Standard of Review

         We deferentially review a trial court's denial of a defendant's motion to suppress, construing conflicting evidence in the manner most favorable to the ruling. Kelly v. State, 997 N.E.2d 1045, 1050 (Ind. 2013). Although we do not reweigh the evidence, we will "consider any substantial and uncontested evidence favorable to the defendant." Robinson v. State, 5 N.E.3d 362, 365 (Ind. 2014) (citing Holder v. State, 847 N.E.2d 930, 935 (Ind. 2006)). However, to the ...


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