Fourth Amendment

Indiana Court: Dim License Plate Bulb Justifies Traffic Stop

Does it have to be dimmer than a judge?


The burned out license plate light has long been a favorite charge used by law enforcement to pull over drivers when the officer has a hunch about some other form of wrongdoing. Drivers rarely inspect these bulbs, so it is easy for them to burn out, unnoticed. Earlier this month, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided to expand the precedent to include stopping cars with functional, but dim, license plate lighting.

A three judge panel upheld the conviction of Thomas Porter for driving on a revoked license. His 1995 Chevy Camaro was stopped on May 12, 2011 because Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer John Montgomery claimed he could not read the plate from a distance of fifty feet. At trial, the prosecution entered photographs of the back of the Camaro into the record.