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Asking a Cop If You Can Step Out of Your Car May Come with a Price

Traditionally, law enforcement is prevented from random, indiscriminate searches. This even includes searches when they stop your motor vehicle for a traffic infraction. However, the Indiana Supreme Court has held that law enforcement can set conditions on your free movement once law enforcement has initiated a traffic stop.

Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld a police officer telling an individual who he had stopped for a traffic infraction that the individual could get out of his car, but that the officer would have to search him if he did. This was in response to the individual asking to step out of his car to see the burnt-out taillight which the officer cited as the basis for stopping the individual’s vehicle. In upholding the search as a condition of the individual stepping from his own vehicle, the Indiana Supreme Court held: “The circumstances of Defendant’s request, and the officer’s response, reflect Defendant’s knowledge that he could avoid an unwanted search simply by choosing not to get out of his truck…. Accordingly, his choice to step out of the truck and submit to the pat-down it entailed was free and voluntary.” See State of Indiana v. Cunningham. It would not be surprising if law enforcement, as a result of this ruling by Indiana’s highest court, began to allow more individuals their freedom of movement, subject of course to a thorough pat-down search.

Contact Keffer Barnhart LLP today if you have been accused of a crime. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.