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Divided appellate court reinstates charges stemming from illegal stop

August 15, 2013

An Indianapolis man who faced multiple charges when he fled from and battled with police after a stop the state concedes was illegal still may be prosecuted on evidence gained after he fled, two of three Court of Appeals judges ruled Tuesday.

Judges Clay Bradford and Elaine Brown reversed the trial court’s suppression of that evidence, but affirmed evidence of marijuana and cocaine possession that proceeded the suspect’s flight in State of Indiana v. Robert Owens, 49A02-1210-CR-817.

Owens was charged after he was arrested late at night emerging from behind a westside Indianapolis school building. Passing Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers stopped him, one admitted “on a hunch,” and Owens admitted swallowing a “blunt.” Police pressed Owens to admit to drug possession, at which time he fled, later fought with police, and was stunned twice with a Taser.

He was charged with Class A felony dealing in cocaine, Class A felony cocaine possession, two counts of Class D felony battery on a law enforcement officer, two counts of Class D felony resisting law enforcement, and Class D felony obstruction of justice.

"Evidence related to Owens’s flight from and battery of officers ... should not have been suppressed. To the extent that the trial court’s order suppressed this evidence, we reverse it," Bradford wrote for the majority. "We conclude, however, that any and all evidence related to the 'blunt' that Owens allegedly attempted to ingest and the alleged cocaine found on his person should be suppressed, and affirm that portion of the trial court’s order."

Judge Patricia Riley in dissent wrote that the trial court was in the better position to judge which evidence arising from the illegal stop should be thrown out.

"By suppressing this evidence, the trial court apparently believed that Owens’s actions resulted from the officers’ exploitation of the illegal stop," Riley wrote. "I would uphold its suppression of evidence relating to Owens’s flight from and battery of" the officers.  


 

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