from the Marion Superior Court Trial Court Cause No.
49G21-1509-F4-32048 The Honorable Alicia Gooden, Judge
Attorneys for Appellant Kimmerly A. Klee Greenwood, Indiana
Ruth Ann Johnson Suzy St. John Marion County Public Defender
Agency Indianapolis, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Monika Prekopa Talbot Caryn Nieman-Szyper Deputy
Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana
Louis Bell appeals his convictions of Level 4 felony unlawful
possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon,
 Level 5 felony possession of a narcotic
drug, Level 5 felony possession of
cocaine,  Class B misdemeanor
possession of marijuana,  and Class C misdemeanor possession of
paraphernalia. Bell asserts his
convictions must be overturned because the trial court
admitted evidence that was obtained
unconstitutionally. We affirm.
and Procedural History
On September 7, 2015, around 1:00 a.m., Officer Justin Gough
of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD)
observed a man, later identified as Bell, riding a bike and
trailing another bike by holding its handlebars. Bell was
"rapidly just kind of looking around the area constantly
looking if someone is watching or if someone is coming
towards" him. (Tr. at 73.) Officer Gough explained this
behavior is called "scanning." (Id. at
14.) State law requires a bike operated at night have a red
rear light and a white front light. Ind. Code §
9-21-11-9. The bike Bell was riding did not have this
lighting. Officer Gough parked down
the road in front of Bell and waited for him to approach.
When Bell was around twenty feet away, Officer Gough asked
Bell, "Hey, do you mind if I talk to you for a
minute?" (Tr. at 79.) Bell replied, "What's
up?" and rode over to Officer Gough. (Id. at
When Bell approached Officer Gough, Bell was "still
scanning and looking around, sweating. His heart was beating
extremely fast." (Id. at 81.) Officer Gough
asked Bell for his name. Officer Gough "r[a]n
[Bell's name] through Control" and learned Bell did
not have any warrants. (Id. at 115.) Officer Gough
asked Bell if he was in possession of anything illegal, and
Bell said he was not.
Officer Gough observed a suspicious bulge in Bell's front
pocket. When he asked Bell about it, Bell "looked away,
started scanning again, and then didn't answer [Officer
Gough's] question." (Id. at 90.) For
"[o]fficer safety, " (id. at 123), Officer
Gough "grabbed [Bell's] hands to conduct an outer
clothes pat-down." (Id. at 90.) The bulge was a
gun. Officer Gough asked Bell if he had a permit to carry the
gun, and Bell said he did not.
Officer Gough placed Bell under arrest and conducted a search
incident to arrest. Officer Gough found a screwdriver with a
"removable cap." (Id. at 95.) In the
cavity under the cap, Officer Gough found "a white
plastic baggie [he] believed to be [sic] cocaine [and]
another clear plastic bag with a brown rock-like substance
[he] believed to be heroin." (Id.) In a
cigarette pack, Officer Gough found a "glass smoking
pipe . . . and then two small burnt marijuana cigars."
(Id. at 98-99.)
The State charged Bell with Level 4 felony unlawful
possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, Level 5
felony possession of a narcotic drug, Level 5 felony
possession of cocaine, Class B misdemeanor possession of
marijuana, and Class C misdemeanor possession of
paraphernalia. Bell filed a motion to suppress the fruits of
Officer Gough's search arguing his encounter with Officer
Gough was not consensual and, as such, the pat-down violated
his rights under the federal and Indiana constitutions. The
trial court denied the motion. Following a bench trial, the
court convicted Bell of all charges and sentenced him
Bell did not seek interlocutory review of the denial of his
motion to suppress but instead appeals following trial. The
issue he raises is therefore "appropriately framed as
whether the trial court abused its discretion by admitting
the evidence at trial." Washington v. State,
784 N.E.2d 584, 587 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003). Our standard of
review for rulings on the admissibility of evidence is
essentially the same whether the challenge is made by a
pre-trial motion to suppress or by trial objection.
Lundquist v. State, 834 N.E.2d 1061, 1067
(Ind.Ct.App. 2005). We do not reweigh the evidence, and we
consider conflicting evidence most favorable to the trial
court's ruling. Id. However, we must also
consider the uncontested evidence favorable to the defendant.
"Although a trial court's determination of
historical facts is entitled to deferential review, we employ
a de novo standard when reviewing the trial
court's ultimate determination of reasonable suspicion
and probable cause." Lindsey v. State, 916
N.E.2d 230, 238 (Ind.Ct.App. 2009), trans. denied.
In other words, when a trial court has admitted evidence
alleged to have been discovered as the result of an illegal
search or seizure, we generally will assume the trial court
accepted the evidence presented by the State and will not
reweigh that evidence, but we owe no deference as to whether
that evidence established the constitutionality of a search
Johnson v. State, 992 N.E.2d 955, 957 (Ind.Ct.App.
2013), trans. denied.
Bell asserts that although Officer Gough "was within his
right to stop Bell for the bicycle violation, "
(Appellant's Br. at 19), he was actually investigating
whether the second bike was stolen. However, as the State notes, even if the
traffic stop was pretext to investigate the possibility the
second bike was stolen, Indiana law allows pretextual traffic
stops when the officer has observed a traffic violation.
See Mitchell v. State, 745 N.E.2d 775, 787 (Ind.
2001) (pretextual traffic stops not unconstitutional
"even if the officer may have an ulterior motive of
furthering an unrelated criminal investigation").
In Indiana, "[w]henever a law enforcement officer
believes in good faith that a person has committed an
infraction or ordinance violation, the law enforcement
officer may detain that person for a time[.]" Ind. Code
§ 34-28-5-3. "[A] traffic stop and limited search
is permissible where an officer has at least reasonable
suspicion that a traffic law, or other law, has been
violated." Sanders v. State, 989 N.E.2d 332,
335 (Ind. 2013), reh'g denied.
In the middle of the night, Bell was riding a bike that did
not have the lights required by law for a bike to be ridden
at night. Officer Gough thus had
reasonable suspicion to detain Bell for the traffic
violation. See, e.g., State v.
Keck, 4 N.E.3d 1180, 1184 (Ind. 2014) ("If an
officer observes a driver commit a traffic violation, he has
probable cause - and thus also the lesser included reasonable
suspicion [required for a Terry stop] - to stop that
driver."); see also State v. Quirk, 842 N.E.2d
334, 340 (Ind. 2006) (even a minor traffic violation
"creates probable cause to stop the driver"). Thus,
Bell has not demonstrated the trial court erred in
determining the initial stop was constitutional.