ILNews

Choke hold violated man's rights, justices rule

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Police violated a man's constitutional protection rights when officers grabbed him by the throat and squeezed to stop him from swallowing a plastic baggie of cocaine, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.

Justices issued a unanimous opinion Thursday in John Grier v. State of Indiana, No. 49S05-0702-CR-68. The Marion Superior case involved a traffic stop in August 2005, when officers stopped Grier for having an expired license plate. He was gagging after being ordered out of the car, and when he opened his mouth on command, officers noticed a clear plastic bag inside.

He refused to spit it out, so an officer grabbed his throat and applied enough pressure to stop it from being swallowed. After about 20 seconds, Grier spit it out onto the sidewalk and was subsequently charged with possession of cocaine.

Claiming his privacy rights had been violated, Grier moved to suppress the bag and its contents as evidence. The trial court denied the request, but certified the question for the appellate courts. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's ruling in October, holding that the officer's actions "did not rise to the level of abuse or torture contemplated by the prohibition of 'unnecessary rigor' in our constitution."

However, justices disagreed in Thursday's ruling, relying on Conwell v. State, 714 N.E.2d 764 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999) that held a police choke hold in a similar situation "invaded the person's bodily integrity, posed great health and safety risks, and was likely to incite violent resistance."

Author Justice Brent Dickson wrote, "The court held that preservation of evidence did not justify 'the use of such violent and dangerous means.' The application of force to a detainee's throat to prevent swallowing of suspected contraband violates the constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure."

The court reverses the denial of Grier's motion to suppress and remands the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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