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COA: Consent prevented constitutional violations

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of two defendants' motion to suppress evidence even though it wasn't reasonable under the Indiana Constitution because one of the men gave his consent to search the bag which held drugs.

In Canon Harper and Adrian Porch v. State of Indiana, No. 10A01-0908-CR-417, Canon Harper and Adrian Porch brought an interlocutory appeal of the denial of their motion to suppress drug and paraphernalia evidence seized during a traffic stop

Police noticed the license plate light was out on Harper's car and went to pull the car over. Before doing so, Harper and Porch pulled into a motel, Porch got out of the car with a bag and headed toward a room. The police pulled up behind Harper's car without activating their lights and asked Porch to come back. They explained that Harper's license plate light was out and then asked Porch if they could pat him down and search the bag. Porch claimed the bag belonged to an ex-girlfriend of Harper and consented to the pat down and search of the bag, which had cocaine and paraphernalia in it.

The appellate court found the stop and search didn't violate the Fourth Amendment after applying Tawdul v. State, 720 N.E.2d 1211, 1217 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999). It wasn't unreasonable for the officers to briefly detain Porch after they legally stopped Harper's car until the officers could make an assessment of the situation. Porch's detention was justified because it wasn't unreasonably long or intrusive, wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

Harper and Porch claimed that the traffic stop had been completed after they confirmed the license plate light was out and there was no need for the pat-down search and search of the bag.

"Nevertheless, because Porch consented to the search of his person and to the search of the duffle bag, insofar as they complain that the search was unreasonable, they cannot prevail, as it is well established that consent is a valid exception to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment," she wrote.

Porch's consent also justified the search under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Even though based on the totality of the circumstances, the state failed to show the pat down and search was reasonable but Porch verbally assented to the pat down and search of the bag. An exception to the search-warrant requirement happens when consent is given to the search, under the theory that when someone gives permission to a search of either his person or property, any governmental intrusion is presumed to be reasonable.

The appellate court also declined to extend the language of the Seatbelt Enforcement Act to the part of Indiana Code that requires the illumination of license plates in light of State v. Washington, 898 N.E.2d 1200, 1207 (Ind. 2008).

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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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