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Transfer granted to 'knock and talk' case

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The state's highest court has agreed to hear a case in which the Indiana Court of Appeals split on whether a police "knock and talk" investigation violated a man's constitutional rights.

The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer today to Kenneth Brown v. State of Indiana, No. 11S04-0911-CR-537, in which Kenneth Brown's various drug convictions were upheld by the Court of Appeals. Judges Carr Darden and Margret Robb ruled the knock and talk procedure didn't violate Brown's rights under the state or federal constitutions. Neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion is constitutionally prerequisite for a knock and talk investigation, and suspicion based on an anonymous tip is proper basis for officers to make inquiries of occupants.

Four police officers went to Brown's house in the early morning to talk to him after receiving a tip that a person they had arrested got drugs from Brown. The officers knocked on his front door and when Brown answered, explained the earlier arrest and asked to search his home. Brown allowed only one officer to enter; that officer found drugs.

Judge Paul Mathias dissented, holding that the investigation and search violated Brown's rights under the state constitution. The judge noted the police said they were taking a "crap shot" to get into Brown's house because they didn't have anything to go on. That doesn't amount to a reasonable degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that criminal activity has occurred under Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 359 (Ind. 2005).

The degree of intrusion in this case was very high, with four officers and three police cars showing up at the home in the middle of the night. Judge Mathias didn't believe a reasonable person, roused from sleep and faced with these intimidating circumstances, would feel free to refuse the officers' request to search.

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