ILNews

Choke hold violated man's rights, justices rule

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Police violated a man's constitutional protection rights when officers grabbed him by the throat and squeezed to stop him from swallowing a plastic baggie of cocaine, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.

Justices issued a unanimous opinion Thursday in John Grier v. State of Indiana, No. 49S05-0702-CR-68. The Marion Superior case involved a traffic stop in August 2005, when officers stopped Grier for having an expired license plate. He was gagging after being ordered out of the car, and when he opened his mouth on command, officers noticed a clear plastic bag inside.

He refused to spit it out, so an officer grabbed his throat and applied enough pressure to stop it from being swallowed. After about 20 seconds, Grier spit it out onto the sidewalk and was subsequently charged with possession of cocaine.

Claiming his privacy rights had been violated, Grier moved to suppress the bag and its contents as evidence. The trial court denied the request, but certified the question for the appellate courts. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's ruling in October, holding that the officer's actions "did not rise to the level of abuse or torture contemplated by the prohibition of 'unnecessary rigor' in our constitution."

However, justices disagreed in Thursday's ruling, relying on Conwell v. State, 714 N.E.2d 764 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999) that held a police choke hold in a similar situation "invaded the person's bodily integrity, posed great health and safety risks, and was likely to incite violent resistance."

Author Justice Brent Dickson wrote, "The court held that preservation of evidence did not justify 'the use of such violent and dangerous means.' The application of force to a detainee's throat to prevent swallowing of suspected contraband violates the constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure."

The court reverses the denial of Grier's motion to suppress and remands the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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