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Justices affirm trucker’s cocaine-dealing convictions

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The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the cocaine-dealing convictions of a truck driver who challenged the state police stop that led to discovery of the drugs and claimed he was denied a speedy trial.

In Patrick Austin v. State of Indiana, 20S03-1303-CR-158, troopers who initially stopped Patrick Austin allowed him to proceed after he refused consent to a search of the truck when an officer grew suspicious about driver logs and his purported destination, among other things.

Acting on those concerns, state police found Austin’s name linked to a prior $1 million bulk cash seizure in a Drug Enforcement Administration database. Austin was later stopped on a traffic infraction, after which a drug-sniffing dog indicated the presence of narcotics.

Justices affirmed the trial court convictions and 45-year aggregate sentence on two Class A felony charges, which the Court of Appeals also affirmed. The court took the case to address police action that led to the discovery and Austin’s argument that his trial violated the speedy trial window because it happened more than 70 days after his request.

Addressing the stop, Justice Steven David wrote for the court, “(W)e think this particular police operation exemplifies the balance between pursuing the law enforcement aim and protecting the constitutional rights of the suspect that the Indiana Constitution compels. … The end result was the discovery and seizure of nearly 90 pounds of cocaine hidden in a vehicle … and also the proper admission of that evidence at Austin’s trial.”

Likewise, Austin’s Criminal Rule 4 appeal claiming denial of a speedy trial was unpersuasive because the trial court produced compelling evidence of court congestion, and Austin was unable to meet his burden of showing a continuance beyond the 70-day speedy trial was clearly erroneous.

“However, we caution that ‘court congestion’ is not a blank check for poor judicial administration,” David wrote. “A defendant with adequate proof may successfully challenge a declaration of ‘court congestion’ on appeal. The protections afforded a defendant under Criminal Rule 4 are not to be trampled upon and trial courts must remain vigilant in its enforcement.”

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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