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Suspect’s disheveled appearance, not GPS, led to drug discovery

October 7, 2013

A suspect’s attempt to pull up his unbuckled and falling pants as he stepped from his car negated any taint on the evidence caused by local law enforcement placing a GPS on his vehicle.  

Dorian Gray Jackson was convicted for possession of a narcotic drug with the intent to deliver as a Class A felony, two counts of dealing in a narcotic drug as Class B felonies, and possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor. On appeal he challenged the admission of the evidence obtained at the traffic stop. He argued the baggies of heroin and marijuana constituted fruit of the poisonous tree because officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights by installing and monitoring a GPS on his car without a warrant.

The state countered that evidence found was the result of a valid arrest and not because of the GPS. Even without the monitoring equipment, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department knew Jackson had conducted multiple heroin transactions and, once the car was pulled over, the detective recognized Jackson as the suspect in a drug investigation.

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed. In Dorian Gray Jackson v. State of Indiana, 20A05-1210-CR-572, the court affirmed Jackson’s convictions, noting that even if the sheriff relied on the GPS to illegally pinpoint Jackson’s location, that would not require exclusion of the evidence obtained at the traffic stop.

Instead, the intervening circumstances supported the state’s assertion that the drugs were discovered without the help of the GPS, the Court of Appeals stated. The sheriff’s detective initiated the traffic stop after Jackson turned his car onto an adjoining street without signaling 200 feet prior to the maneuver. Recognizing Jackson as the driver, the detective noticed the suspect’s belt was undone and his pants were hanging down and then became worried about a hidden weapon or contraband when the officer saw Jackson attempt to pull up his pants as he exited the car.  

“We conclude that the intervening circumstances, including the traffic infraction, the discovery of Jackson as the driver whom the police had probable cause to arrest, and the position of Jackson’s pants, were sufficient to dissipate any taint caused by the illegal reliance on the GPS device,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court.
 

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