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Justices: Search of vehicle violated woman’s constitutional rights

November 22, 2013

The Indiana Supreme Court Thursday reversed the admittance of statements a woman made to police after a concerned citizen set up a sting operation attempting to catch an alleged drug dealer. The justices held that the warrantless seizure of Danielle Kelly’s person and vehicle violated her constitutional rights.

Kelly rode with her cousin Lamont Day to the home of Carolyn Goodwin. Goodwin had contacted police and told them she arranged to purchase cocaine from a man who she said was selling drugs to her friends at Fortville bars. Goodwin had never been a confidential informant and she did not provide the man’s name or physical description of him or his car, but that man turned out to be Day. Goodwin never mentioned Kelly.

When the two arrived at Goodwin’s home, police ordered Day and Kelly out of the car. Police questioned Kelly who said she knew about the cocaine in the car. Then police read her the Miranda warning, and Kelly again said she knew about the drug. She was charged with two Class A felonies: dealing in and possession of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public park or youth program center.

On interlocutory appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the admittance of the cocaine found in the search of the vehicle and Kelly’s statements to police after she received the Miranda warning.

In Danielle Kelly v. State of Indiana, 30S01-1303-CR-220, the justices held that the circumstances of the case constitute an arrest that must be supported by probable cause. The police came to Goodwin’s house based on her attempted sting operation, but they never corroborated the claim that Day had cocaine and he intended to sell it. Plus, Goodwin never told police anything about Kelly.

The high court also held that the plurality opinion in Missouri v. Siebert, 542 U.S. 600, 617 (2004), prohibits the admission of Kelly’s statements to Fortville Police Chief Benjamin Kiphart. The questioning of Kelly and her statements to police prior to being read her Miranda rights and the responses of Kiphart based on her statements led the justices to believe the references to Kelly’s pre-warning admission “inevitably diluted the potency of the Miranda warning such that it was powerless to cure the initial failure to warn, even if that failure was a product of a good-faith mistake,” Justice Mark Massa wrote.

“Although we have no knowledge of, and thus can express no opinion regarding, Chief Kiphart’s motives, we believe our jurisprudence, as well as that of our colleagues, makes it clear that Miranda requires a ‘warn-first practice,’” Massa continued.

He pointed out that officers may still, under Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 318 (1985), cure a good-faith mistake by administering a proper warning before proceeding with further questioning. But, as in this case, that cure was impossible when it was followed by explicit references to a pre-warning incriminating statement.

 

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