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Officer safety justified opening ajar car door

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The opening of an ajar car door by a police officer during a foot chase with a suspected robber didn't violate the man's federal or state constitutional rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

In Joshua P. Lindsey v. State of Indiana, No. 29A02-0902-CR-196, the appellate court determined that the exigent circumstance of officer safety justified Officer Charles Kruse's opening wider Joshua Lindsey's car door and visually inspecting the interior to make sure no one else was in the car. Lindsey left the driver's side door slightly ajar.

Kruse saw Lindsey run into a CVS, brandish a weapon, and then quickly leave the store running in the direction of his car. A thorough search of the car wasn't performed until a search warrant was obtained and Lindsey was in custody. He moved to suppress the evidence found in the car, claiming Kruse's actions violated his constitutional rights. The trial court denied his motion.

"Officer Kruse merely opened wider a door that was already ajar to look inside the car based on a reasonable belief that an armed accomplice might be inside. Any expectation of privacy Lindsey had in his car was surely reduced when he parked his car in a public lot with the door ajar and the key in the ignition," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

The officer's actions were also reasonable under the Indiana Constitution, based on Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 359 (Ind. 2005). Kruse had a high degree of suspicion that Lindsey had just violated the law because he saw Lindsey go into the CVS with a weapon. The degree of intrusion of his quick inspection of the car was minimal and he performed the search based on law enforcement safety, wrote the judge.

Lindsey also challenged the removal of juror No. 37 for cause, and in denying his Baston challenge to the state's preemptory strike of juror No. 10. The jurors in question and Lindsey are African-American.

The trial court didn't err in striking juror No. 37 because he answered it would be hard for him to be fair and impartial to the state because of past experiences he had with police, the appellate court concluded. The trial court also didn't err in denying Lindsey's Baston challenge because the state proved it removed juror No. 10 for race-neutral reasons. In addition, juror No. 5, who is also African-American, was struck by Lindsey.

The Court of Appeals also affirmed Lindsey's aggregate 70-year sentence for robbery, criminal confinement, resisting law enforcement, and adjudication as a habitual offender.

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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