A protective sweep and subsequent search of a house following the issuance of a search warrant were reasonable under the federal and state constitutions, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The defendant argued that the scope of the sweep – which led to the discovery of drugs and paraphernalia – was impermissibly broad.
Shelby County Sheriff’s Department detectives went to Floyd Weddle’s home to serve a search warrant for theft and false informing. They also learned that Weddle and Vicki Hall were manufacturing and dealing in methamphetamine. The cars of Weddle and Hall were parked outside the home. When police knocked, they saw the blinds move in the home and heard movement in the house. They entered and saw Weddle and immediately placed him in custody.
The officers heard movement in the back of the house. Hall was in a bedroom and came out. Weddle then said he wasn’t sure if anyone else was in the house, so one sergeant performed a brief protective sweep through open doors and some rooms in the house. They found Lindsay Burton hiding behind a blanket in a bedroom. While searching, police smelled meth and saw a marijuana plant. Weddle refused to allow officers to search the rest of the house, so a search warrant was obtained, which led to more drug evidence. Weddle was charged with and convicted of several drug offenses.
In Floyd Weddle v. State of Indiana, 73A01-1209-CR-452, Weddle argued the protective sweep and warrantless search of the home was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The appellate judges found the scope of the protective sweep was not excessive under either Constitution.
“We find that the protective sweep of Weddle’s residence was justified because the police officers searched only adjoining rooms from which an attack could immediately occur,” Judge John Baker wrote, pointing to Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325, 334-35 (1990), and Hannibal v. State, 804 N.E.2d 206 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004). “We further find that the protective sweep was permissible because the officers had specific articulable facts that an individual, who could jeopardize their safety, was hiding in the back of the house.”
Regarding the Indiana constitutional claims, the judges found the circumstances supplied the officers with a high degree of concern that someone else could be hiding in the house and attack them. As such, the protective sweep and subsequent search following the issuance of the search warrant were reasonable.