Carmel drops charges over traffic stop

Justine Allen recalls how she was stopped by police.
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Bob Segall/13 Investigates

Carmel - It should have been a routine traffic stop. Instead, Carmel police surrounded a young mother at gunpoint, ordered her to the ground and handcuffed her.

But Justine Allen will not have her day in court.

"I'm terrified of guns, so when they pulled their guns out, I was just in awe. I couldn't believe this was happening to me," Allen said.

The incident report says police stopped Allen for following too close behind a squad car. But the guns and handcuffs? All of that was for something else.

"The officer said, 'I thought you were running from me slowly'," Allen recalled. "Did not make any sense to me. He said, 'Why didn't you pull over when my lights went on?' And I said, 'Officer, your lights were never on'."

Allen was right. The police car following her had no working lights because of a blown fuse. But despite the broken lights, despite the guns and handcuffs, she was still issued a traffic ticket for following too close.

"I'm going to court and I'm going to contest it," Allen said shortly after the incident.

She promised to fight the ticket and she got some help.

"This is outrageous. How can this happen? It's frightening," said Jim Phend, director of the Carmel Motorists Association. "I have to say, from my part, it makes me a little worried to travel on the streets around here. What can I do to set off the booby trap that puts me on the ground with guns pointed at my head?"

Phend wrote letters to city hall, asking officials to review Allen's case. They did and just two days before her court appearance, Allen got a letter.

"It's from the City of Carmel. It says 'motion to dismiss.' They want this to go away," Allen said.

"As far as my office is concerned, this case is closed," said Carmel City Attorney Douglas Haney. "I really felt that, because the lights weren't on and, apparently, she said she couldn't hear the siren that...I decided in the interest of justice, I wouldn't prosecute the case, so I dismissed it."

"I don't think any other person deserves to go through what I did," Allen said. "What happened to me was wrong."

Allen is still angry about what happened and the motorists association thinks the city owes her more.

"She ought to receive an apology. What's the matter with that?" Phend said.

The city attorney says dropping the charges is his way of making things right.

"The city is interested in justice, not just enforcing the law regardless of the circumstances. Really, I just cut her a break," Haney said.

Allen says she'll gladly take that break. It saves her a $165 fine and it saves the City of Carmel extra scrutiny over a controversial traffic stop.