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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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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