STARKE COUNTY, Ind.–A Starke County deputy is being sued for a search he conducted in July, when he stopped three people who were on the way to Pokemon GO Fest in Illinois. The ACLU of Indiana filed the suit this week on the grounds that the deputy violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unconstitutional searches.
Nicholas Tyo, Steven Stanley, and Drew Landes were on the way to Illinois from Ohio in July when they were pulled over by Deputy Ethan Biggs. The suit claims that Biggs demanded everyone’s driver’s license, then asked if they had any drugs in the car.
LISTEN: ACLU Attorney Gavin Rose
The suit says Biggs “proceeded to lengthen the traffic stop” by conducting a non-consensual search of the car, with a drug-sniffing police dog. The suit says Biggs patted down each man and searched both the inside and outside of the car.
The suit claims that there was no justification for the search and that no evidence of drugs or criminal activity was found, and that despite Biggs’ claim that the men were speeding as cause for the stop, he did not give them men a ticket. The Fourth Amendment does not allow for a traffic stop to be converted into an intrusive drug investigation, said the ACLU.
“Minor traffic stops should not be pretexts for invasive searches,” said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana Senior Staff Attorney. “This is police overreach in an effort to discover contraband without any reason to believe that anything unlawful was afoot.”
Rose said his problem with the stop is that he believes the officer took a traffic stop and exaggerated it to conduct an unrelated search.
“That is something the Fourth Amendment and courts have dealt with time and time again,” he said. “And, something that I think happens far more frequently than it should.”
Rose said the cop took something that could have been a short interaction with police and turned it into something more protracted, and for that, the three men want to be momentarily compensated.
“Our office and the three people that we represent want to make sure that the deputy and the other persons in his office are aware that this is something that they simply cannot do.”