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Attenuation doctrine doesn't apply under Indiana Constitution

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The attenuation doctrine has no application under the state’s constitution, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today in a case alleging an unconstitutional search.  

In Charles Adam Trotter v. State of Indiana, No. 29A02-0910-CR-974, the Hamilton Superior Court ultimately concluded that the warrantless entry into a private residence where Charles Trotter was staying was unlawful under the state and federal constitutions, but that evidence of the police officers’ observations is admissible pursuant to the doctrine of attenuation. The judge denied Trotter’s motion to suppress evidence regarding the observations the officers made when, looking for Trotter, they entered a pole barn attached to the residence without a warrant.

The officers were responding to a complaint of gunshots fired. The first officer came upon the residence where he believed the shots were coming from and spoke to Barry Dircks. Dircks said Trotter was inside using the bathroom. The officer saw guns, bullets, and liquor on the picnic table. The officers were unable to get into the home on the property but found an unlocked door on the pole barn. They went inside looking for Trotter and spotted him pointing a rifle at them telling them to get out. After a standoff, he surrendered and was charged with Class D felonies pointing a firearm and criminal recklessness.

On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the officers’ warrantless entry violated both the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The state argued the officers were trying to enter the buildings to make sure Trotter was OK, but the record doesn’t support the state’s argument. The officers never inquired about Trotter’s well-being nor had any reason to think he was in need of assistance. In addition, the officers’ degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that a violation had occurred was essentially non-existent, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

The judges also rejected the state’s argument that the attenuation doctrine applied in the case. The doctrine allows, in some situations that the causal chain is sufficiently attenuated to dissipate any taint of illegal police activity, for the evidence seized during a search to be admitted. Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has recognized this exception to the exclusionary rule, but the judges found it didn’t apply under the state constitution.

Article I, Section 11 in some cases confers greater protections to individual rights than the Fourth Amendment affords, wrote Judge Crone. Agreeing with the reasoning in Webster v. State, 908 N.E.2d 289, 293 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), the judges held the attenuation doctrine as it currently exists as a separate analysis to circumvent the exclusionary rule for Fourth Amendment purposes has no application under the state constitution.

“We have already determined pursuant to the Litchfield factors that the police officers in this case acted unreasonably under the totality of the circumstances when they entered Trotter’s residence with no warrant, no probable cause, and no exigency,” he wrote. “We further conclude that Trotter’s alleged act of pointing a firearm was a direct response to the police misconduct, and in no way does Trotter’s behavior make the police misconduct any more reasonable.”

Judge Crone noted that even if they were to consider application of the doctrine that it wouldn’t apply in the instant case. The judges reversed the denial of Trotter’s motion to suppress and the grant of the state’s motion to clarify, and remanded for additional proceedings.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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