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COA: Police escort into home does not violate 4th Amendment

July 24, 2013

In a matter of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday decided that a police officer’s refusal to allow a defendant to enter his or her residence without being accompanied by an officer until a search warrant has been obtained is a reasonable seizure that does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

The novel issue arose in Cynthia Sugg v. State of Indiana, 31A05-1208-CR-397, in which Cynthia Sugg challenged her numerous methamphetamine- and marijuana-related convictions. Sugg and her husband in February 2012 separately purchased on the same day from the same drug store a box of 48-pills of pseudoephedrine. Indiana State Police detective Katrina Smith with the methamphetamine suppression unit saw in the National Pseudoephedrine Log Exchange the next day that Sugg and her husband had made the purchases. The two already faced charges of manufacturing methamphetamine, so Smith and other officers went to Sugg’s house for a “knock and talk.”

The officers observed some items outside that could be used to make meth and found Sugg outside with no coat or shoes on. They identified themselves to her and said they were investigating meth manufacturing. Sugg lied to officers about purchasing the pills the previous day and denied the officers entrance into her home. The police sought a search warrant and, during that time, said they would allow Sugg back into her home to get a jacket and shoes only if she was escorted by police so she couldn’t destroy evidence or get a weapon. She allowed it, and while in there, an officer saw marijuana and smelled it.

Sugg was later arrested after the search warrant was executed, convicted on six charges, and sentenced to 10 years. Sugg appealed, claiming the evidence was admitted in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution.

The COA affirmed her convictions, relying on the United States Supreme Court case, Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326 (2001). The restraint imposed was only for the short time it took to get the search warrant, and police had probable cause to believe her home contained contraband, Judge James Kirsch wrote.

There was also no violation of the state Constitution, the judges held, finding under the totality of the circumstances, the intrusion was reasonable.
 

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