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Police had reasonable suspicion to stop men, search bag

October 31, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed with an appellant who claimed police did not have reasonable suspicion to believe he and two other men were involved in criminal activity, which led to their stop and his eventual conviction of Class A felony attempted dealing in methamphetamine.

Robert Dunlap called police in August 2011 after he believed someone was living in one of the storage units he owned in Elkhart County. Sergeant Michael McHenry and Officer Dustin Lundgren responded and saw three men, including Kevin Clark, leaving the storage unit. Clark was carrying a duffel bag. Police ordered the men to stop, and Clark sat the bag on the ground.

McHenry asked if Clark had anything illegal in the bag; he admitted that it contained marijuana. McHenry then searched the bag without a warrant or Clark’s consent and found the drug, baggies of methamphetamine, pills and other paraphernalia. This led to a search of Clark’s car by a drug-sniffing dog. Police found marijuana in the car and an inactive methamphetamine lab inside the trunk. Trooper Maggie Shortt processed the lab.

Clark claimed police didn’t have reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity as afoot at the storage unit, but the judges pointed out Dunlap called police because he thought a rental agreement was being violated by someone living in the unit. That report gave officers reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, which justified stopping Clark, Judge Melissa May wrote in Kevin M. Clark v. State of Indiana, 20A05-1202-CR-62.

Clark admitted he had marijuana in the bag, which gave McHenry probable cause to search it. The trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in admitting the items found in it.

The judges also upheld Shortt’s testimony as to how much methamphetamine Clark possessed. She testified as to the conversion ration of pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine. Her testimony was opinion testimony of a lay person based on her experience, not expert testimony, May wrote. Her testimony could reasonably assist the jury in deciding whether Clark possessed the component to produce more than three grams of methamphetamine, the threshold needed to convict him of the Class A felony charge.

 

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