Indiana Law Annotated Vol. 19 No. 6 September 29, 2000

Table of Contents


The Indiana Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a case raising important issues under the Indiana Constitution on Monday, Oct. 2, at 12:05 p.m. in the Moot Court Room. All students and faculty are invited to attend. The appeal challenges the constitutionality of police sobriety checkpoints. The State will be represented at oral argument by Tim Beam, IU Law Class of '99. The appellant will be represented by Mark Kopinski of South Bend. The case is an appeal from St. Joseph County Superior Court. The panel of judges includes Judge Edward Najam, Judge Patrick Sullivan, and Judge Sandy Brook. A case summary follows; the briefs are on reserve at the Library.

Facts and Procedural History

On the evening of June 18, 1999, the Indiana State Police and the Mishawaka Police Department conducted a joint sobriety checkpoint on McKinley Avenue in Mishawaka. Indiana State Police Sergeant Gary Coffie and Mishawaka Police Corporal Timothy Williams had previously agreed to conduct the checkpoint and notified local news media two days earlier. The officers selected the site of the sobriety checkpoint because that location had been used before, it had been a "trouble spot" for the Mishawaka Police Department, and it was well-lighted and allowed police to pull cars off the road without impeding traffic.

At approximately 11:30 p.m., police set up the sobriety checkpoint according to the predetermined plans. Sergeant Coffie positioned his patrol car in the middle of McKinley Avenue with a sign indicating a sobriety checkpoint. Police placed cones and flares leading traffic from the roadway into an adjacent parking lot. Sergeant Coffie then began to flag down five cars at a time to tenter the checkpoint. Drivers entering the checkpoint were asked to produce their licenses and registrations. If an officer would ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests. If no violations were detected, the driver was free to go, and the stop lasted less than five minutes.

Gerschoffer was one of seventy cars that passed through the sobriety checkpoint. While speaking to Gerschoffer, Corporal Williams smelled a strong odor of alcohol, observed that Gerschoffer's eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and noticed that his speech was slurred. After failing three field sobriety tests, Gerschoffer agreed to submit to a chemical test, which revealed he had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.11.

The State charged Gerschoffer with operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) and with operating a vehicle with a BAC of at least a 0.10. Both offenses were elevated to Class D felonies because Gerschoffer had a previous conviction of OWI within the last five years. Gerschoffer filed a motion to suppress all evidence of his intoxication obtained at the sobriety checkpoint, claiming that the checkpoint violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Following a suppression hearing, the trial court granted Gerschoffer's motion to suppress. It concluded that the sobriety checkpoint "did not violate the Fourth Amendment, as it followed, as it followed very closely the guidelines approved by the Indiana Supreme Court in Garcia v. State, [500 N.E.2d 158 (Ind. 1986), cert. denied, 481 U.S. 1014 (1986)]". However, the trial court determined that the checkpoint did not comport with the requirements of the Indiana constitution, noting that "where no exigent circumstances exist; and where the [S]tate could easily seek the issuance of a warrant from a neutral detached judicial officer, failure to do so is unreasonable." The State challenges that ruling on appeal.

Parties' Contentions

In Garcia, the Indiana Supreme Court held that a police sobriety checkpoint is valid under the Fourth Amendment as an enforcement method to combat drunk driving, so long as the checkpoint meets the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47 (1979) and other Fourth Amendment cases. The court in Brown enunciated three factors to be weighed in determining the reasonableness of seizures that are less intrusive than a traditional arrest, i.e., sobriety checkpoints:

1.The gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure;

2.The degree to which the seizure advances the public interest; and

3.The severity of the interference with individual liberty.

In addition, the sobriety check point must be carried out pursuant to a plan embodying explicit, neutral limitations on the conduct of individual officers so that the officers do not have the unbridled discretion to decide which vehicles should be detained. Whether sobriety checkpoints are constitutional under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution is an issue of first impression. Under the Indiana Constitution, the State must show that a search was reasonable in light of the totality of the circumstances.

The State contends that the trial court improperly suppressed evidence of Gerschoffer's intoxication obtained at the sobriety checkpoint. In particular, it argues that the trial court erred when it essentially concluded that a sobriety checkpoint was per se unreasonable under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution absent a valid warrant. That State maintains that the reasonableness requirement under the Indiana Constitution is satisfied by the federal three-prong balancing test set forth in Brown and urges this court to adopt the guidelines set forth in cases interpreting the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints under the Fourth Amendment.

Gerschoffer counters that the trial court did not err in suppressing the evidence of his intoxication. He urges that even if a warrant is not required to conduct a sobriety checkpoint, the Indiana Constitution provides greater protection than the United States Constitution and that sobriety checkpoints should be deemed unreasonable under Article I, Section 11.


Written faculty approval forms are due for any students taking Directed Reading, Research or Independent Clinical Project for the fall semester. Approval forms are on the bookshelf in our office.

Tentative December 2000 graduates need to complete graduation forms by October 10.

Exam numbers for the fall semester are now available.

Indiana State Bar applications for the Feb. 27 & 28, 2001 examination are available in our office. The filing deadline is Nov. 15, 2000.


PILF will hold its next regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 2 at 12:15 p.m. in Room 122. Since the Wine and Cheese party is this week, please be sure to attend. We need your help to make this event a success! We look forward to seeing you there!

Join CLS on Tuesday nights as we look at the book of Romans. This week we will be studying Chapter 2. All are welcome to attend. 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. in Room 214.

The ILS presents "The European Union and Its Future," a talk by Professor Paul Craig, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 12:10 p.m., Room 122. Professor Craig, a well-known and internationally respected scholar of EU Law will talk about the EU, its current and future concerns. All interested students are invited to attend. Beverages provided by ILS.

This Wednesday is the Public Interest Law Foundation's second annual wine and cheese party! Mix with law professors and local attorneys to learn more about the doors open to you with your J.D. Please join us in the student lounge Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 4:15 p.m.

PILF will also honor the summer fellowship and loan reduction and assistance program recipients for this last year. We strongly encourage EVERYONE to attend and learn more about careers in non-law firm positions, PILF's summer fellowships and the law school's loan reduction and assistance program. See you there!

All students interested in joining IU's Jessup International Moot Court

Team now have until Thursday, Oct. 5 to submit their materials. The Jessup Team consists of 5 students who will represent the Law School in an international Moot Court competition entailing a complex international legal problem. Interested students should submit a resume and a brief statement of interest in a sealed envelope by the Oct. 5 deadline. Envelopes should be placed in Scott Palmer's (3L) mailbox. The team will be selected by an independent faculty selection committee the following week.


The Helene G. Simon Hillel Center is sponsoring a program for future lawyers, which matches students with attorneys from a variety of different fields. For more information and applications, visit the Hillel website, and click on the Gesherim program, or call the Hillel Center at 336-3824.

BLSA and the Intellect are holding a Yoplait Yogurt top drive in order to support Breast Cancer research. If you, your friends, or your family eat Yoplait Yogurt, please keep the tops. We will have a drop box outside of the BLSA office on the ground level of the law school (across from the SLA Bookstore). Please aid us in our efforts to support Breast Cancer by bringing in your Yoplait Yogurt lids and dropping them in the collection box.

To schedule classrooms in the law building, send email to bl-law-events (for Outlook users) or bl-events-law@ (for non-Outlook users). Please include date and time of event, length of time room will be needed, classroom requested and number of people attending event. Requests should be sent at least one week prior to event and include name of person requesting, organization planning the event and an email address. Confirmations will be sent by reply email.

Requests for AV services may be sent to Beth at Please include the name of your group and the e-mail address of the contact person, a description of what you want to do, and the date, location, starting time and duration of the event. Requests must be made at least 48 hours in advance and will be confirmed by email.


Monday, Oct. 2, Indiana Court of Appeals Oral Arguments, Moot Court Room, Noon.

Monday, Oct. 2, PILF Meeting, Room 122, 12:15 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 3, MPRE Application Deadline. (Oct. 19 with surcharge).

Tuesday, Oct. 3, CLS Bible Study, Room 214, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 4, ILS Brown Bag Lecture, Room 122, 12:10 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 4, PILF Wine and Cheese Party, Student Lounge, 4:15 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 5, Submission Deadline for Moot Court Team.

Saturday, Oct. 7, Jill Behrman Run for the End Zone. Register at 8:30 a.m. Event at 10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 11, Professor Steve Johnson, Moot Court Room, 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 15, Indiana State Bar Applications due.

ILA: To be included on the email distribution list, please send your address to Paper copies are available upon request or in the student area of the law school. Information is also posted at The School of Law also appreciates the assistance TIS in the weekly reproduction of the newsletter.

Submissions: Information and articles for the ILA should be submitted by Thursday at 10 a.m. for inclusion in Monday's edition. Please email all submissions to

Letters to the Editor: Letters should be submitted Wednesday at 5 p.m. for possible inclusion in Monday's issue.

Updated: 29 September 2000