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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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