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COA affirms trial court in finding drug evidence was admissible

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has held that a trial court did not err in admitting evidence obtained from a search of a purse and hotel room.

In Canon Harper v. State of Indiana, No. 10A01-1012-CR-687, Canon Harper was charged with dealing in cocaine, possession of cocaine, dealing in a narcotic drug, and possession of a narcotic drug, all Class A felonies; two counts of resisting law enforcement, battery of a law enforcement officer, and possession of paraphernalia, all Class A misdemeanors; and maintaining a common nuisance, a Class D felony.

In 2008, police noticed that the car Harper was driving had no working license plate light. The officers observed the car pull into a motel parking lot and park. Passenger Adrian Porch got out, carrying a purse toward a hotel room. Before he could enter the room, a woman inside slammed the door shut.

The police officers asked Harper and Porch to whom the purse belonged, and Harper said an ex-girlfriend left it in his car. When asked, both men consented to a search of the purse, which contained 48 grams of cocaine, 30 grams of heroin, scales, razor blades and aluminum foil. One officer placed Porch under arrest, and the other officer attempted to arrest Harper, who resisted and caused the officer to hit his head against the building.

Other officers arrived, and as they discussed the matter with the hotel manager, the manager said Harper had rented the hotel room that Porch had earlier approached. The manager evicted the room’s occupants and gave police permission to search it, whereupon police found about three grams of heroin and a coffee grinder, blender, razor blade and flour sifter.

The appellate court wrote that while Harper did not physically possess any of the contraband, an accused may be convicted of possession charges based upon constructive possession.

Harper’s possessory interest in the vehicle is sufficient to establish his constructive possession of the purse, the COA held.

With respect to contraband discovered in the motel, Harper contends the possessory interest rule does not apply to possession of a premises where the possession is non-exclusive, citing Pier v. State, 400 N.E.2d 209 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980) for support.

But the COA wrote that Harper’s case is unlike Pier, where the evidence established the defendant had been absent from his premises for 48 hours prior to when contraband was found. Harper had checked into the motel room on Nov. 11, 2008, and the evidence was found later that day.

The COA affirmed the trial court in all regards.



 

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