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COA: Animal seizure allowed without warrant

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Police and animal control officers were justified in removing malnourished animals from a property without a warrant, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals today. The court also overturned a Bartholomew County man's convictions of neglect on four dead horses because of lack of evidence they died of neglect.

In Terry Baxter v. State of Indiana, No. 03A04-0710-CR-596, Terry Baxter appealed his convictions of four counts of Class D felony failure to properly dispose of a dead animal, and 12 counts of Class B misdemeanor neglect of an animal.

Baxter argued the statutes criminalizing the improper disposal of a dead animal were unconstitutional, the trial court abused its discretion in allowing animal control to participate in this case with respect to nine living horses seized from his property, that the seizure of those horses violated his rights under the Indiana Constitution, and the court lacked sufficient evidence to support all of his neglect convictions.

After police were notified about the four dead horses on Baxter's grandmother's property by a worker who went there to pick up a propane tank, they went to Baxter's home and saw nine more horses that appeared to be malnourished. They called the Indiana Hooved Animal Humane Society, which removed the horses and placed them in foster care. The horses were in plain sight and removed without a warrant. A veterinarian who examined them found eight of the nine horses were malnourished.

The Court of Appeals ruled the Indiana Code regarding animal disposal was constitutional, clear, and easily understood. The appellate court affirmed Baxter's four convictions of failure to properly dispose of a dead animal, finding he didn't follow Indiana statute for disposal by leaving the decomposing bodies of four horses on his grandmother's property, which is near his property.

It was wholly appropriate for animal control to intervene on this case, wrote Judge Michael Barnes, for the limited purpose of opposing Baxter's request to sell the neglected animals. The trial court followed Indiana Code regarding the termination of Baxter's rights to the animals, awarding custody of the seized animals to a humane society, and ordering Baxter to pay for the cost of caring for the animals during their pre-trial impoundment, wrote the judge.

The seizure of the nine malnourished animals and four dead horses without a warrant didn't violate Baxter's rights under the Indiana Constitution. Citing Trimble v. State, 842 N.E.2d 798 (Ind. 2006), the appellate court found police officers were justified in going to Baxter's home after they received a tip and removing the horses from Baxter's care. The living horses were in plain sight on the property, and in regards to the dead horses, the police didn't go to the grandmother's property until Baxter's son told police they were there, wrote Judge Barnes.

The appellate court affirmed Baxter's convictions on eight counts of neglect of the living horses, but reversed the four convictions of neglect of the dead horses because they were based on mere speculation. Because the animals were already decomposing when they were found, veterinarians were unable to say the horses died as a result of neglect, wrote the judge.
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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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