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High court takes 3 cases

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The Indiana Supreme Court will hear a case in which a dissenting Court of Appeals judge worried that the majority’s finding would head toward a bright-line rule regarding the officer safety exception to the warrant requirement in the context of a car on the side of the road.

In Cedric D. Lewis v. State of Indiana,  No. 49S1010-CR-619, the three judges on the appellate panel each wrote an opinion, with Judges Patricia Riley and James Kirsch concluding that the search of Cedric Lewis’ car violated the state and federal constitutions. Lewis was pulled over, immediately stuck his hands out the window and seemed nervous. He said he had no drugs in the car. As the arresting officer opened the driver’s side door to ask the passenger to get out of the car because it would be towed, the officer saw a gun. Lewis’ attempts to suppress the handgun evidence were denied.

Judge Riley focused her opinion on the officer safety exception for searching a car without a warrant and found the officer’s safety to not be an issue. Judge Kirsch concurred in result with Judge Riley because he felt the record failed to answer important questions regarding officer safety concerns and that the state didn’t satisfy its burden to prove that the search was justified.

Judge Paul Mathias dissented because he thought Judge Riley’s ruling went in the direction of creating a bright-line rule regarding where officers may lawfully position themselves outside of a vehicle without a warrant.

The justices also accepted Alva Curtis v. State of Indiana,  No. 49S02-1010-CR-620, in which the Court of Appeals reversed the denial of Alva Curtis’ motion to dismiss charges against him, because not dismissing the charges was a violation of his due process rights. Curtis has physical and mental limitations and is uneducated. When living with a friend, he attacked a neighbor. He was released from jail nearly a month after the incident and ended up in a long-term, locked facility before being moved to a rehabilitation and nursing facility.

Psychiatric examinations determined Curtis couldn’t understand the proceedings, help his attorney, and would likely not be restored to competency. The trial court denied his motion to dismiss and refused to commit him to the Department of Mental Health and Addictions based on the cost to the state.

The appellate court didn’t fault the trial court for not committing Curtis in order to save money, but that rationale doesn’t support the decision to deny dismissing the charging information. The judges cited State v. Davis, 898 N.E.2d 281, 285 (Ind. 2008) to find Curtis’ due process rights had been violated. The Davis court explained the mere act of holding criminal charges indefinitely over the head of someone who won’t ever be able to prove his innocence is a violation of due process rights, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

In Gibraltar Financial Corp. v. Prestige Equipment Corp., et al., No. 20S03-1010-CV-618, the Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for Prestige Equipment Corp. and other defendants on Gibraltar’s complaint of conversion, replevin, and a money judgment.

Gibraltar argued that a lease entered into between Key Corporate Capital Inc. and Vitco Industries Inc., to which Gibraltar is a secured creditor, was actually a disguised sale subject to an unofficial security interest. The judges found after applying the relevant Colorado statute and examining the underlying circumstances of the transaction that the lease was just a lease.
 

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