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Attenuation doctrine doesn't apply under Indiana Constitution

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The attenuation doctrine has no application under the state’s constitution, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today in a case alleging an unconstitutional search.  

In Charles Adam Trotter v. State of Indiana, No. 29A02-0910-CR-974, the Hamilton Superior Court ultimately concluded that the warrantless entry into a private residence where Charles Trotter was staying was unlawful under the state and federal constitutions, but that evidence of the police officers’ observations is admissible pursuant to the doctrine of attenuation. The judge denied Trotter’s motion to suppress evidence regarding the observations the officers made when, looking for Trotter, they entered a pole barn attached to the residence without a warrant.

The officers were responding to a complaint of gunshots fired. The first officer came upon the residence where he believed the shots were coming from and spoke to Barry Dircks. Dircks said Trotter was inside using the bathroom. The officer saw guns, bullets, and liquor on the picnic table. The officers were unable to get into the home on the property but found an unlocked door on the pole barn. They went inside looking for Trotter and spotted him pointing a rifle at them telling them to get out. After a standoff, he surrendered and was charged with Class D felonies pointing a firearm and criminal recklessness.

On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the officers’ warrantless entry violated both the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The state argued the officers were trying to enter the buildings to make sure Trotter was OK, but the record doesn’t support the state’s argument. The officers never inquired about Trotter’s well-being nor had any reason to think he was in need of assistance. In addition, the officers’ degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that a violation had occurred was essentially non-existent, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

The judges also rejected the state’s argument that the attenuation doctrine applied in the case. The doctrine allows, in some situations that the causal chain is sufficiently attenuated to dissipate any taint of illegal police activity, for the evidence seized during a search to be admitted. Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has recognized this exception to the exclusionary rule, but the judges found it didn’t apply under the state constitution.

Article I, Section 11 in some cases confers greater protections to individual rights than the Fourth Amendment affords, wrote Judge Crone. Agreeing with the reasoning in Webster v. State, 908 N.E.2d 289, 293 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), the judges held the attenuation doctrine as it currently exists as a separate analysis to circumvent the exclusionary rule for Fourth Amendment purposes has no application under the state constitution.

“We have already determined pursuant to the Litchfield factors that the police officers in this case acted unreasonably under the totality of the circumstances when they entered Trotter’s residence with no warrant, no probable cause, and no exigency,” he wrote. “We further conclude that Trotter’s alleged act of pointing a firearm was a direct response to the police misconduct, and in no way does Trotter’s behavior make the police misconduct any more reasonable.”

Judge Crone noted that even if they were to consider application of the doctrine that it wouldn’t apply in the instant case. The judges reversed the denial of Trotter’s motion to suppress and the grant of the state’s motion to clarify, and remanded for additional proceedings.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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