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COA: Gun test-firing not an unlawful search

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Routine test-firing of handguns that police have in their custody isn't a violation of a person's Fourth Amendment rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Deciding a case of first impression in Dannie Engram v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0801-CR-105, the appellate panel unanimously affirmed a ruling from a Marion Superior judge on the appellant-defendant's convictions for murder and aggravated battery. Engram was arrested after a 2004 traffic stop when police found he was driving with a suspended license, and police took his licensed .45 caliber handgun. Police test-fired the weapon according to department policy and recorded the results in a national ballistics database.

Two years later, those ballistics results showed the weapon was used in a June 2006 street shooting where Engram was identified as a possible suspect; he was arrested and charged. The trial court allowed the ballistics results to be used as evidence, and Engram objected. A jury found him guilty of murder and aggravated battery, for which he was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

On appeal, Engram argued that the results of the 2004 ballistics test should have been suppressed because the test was performed without probable cause, a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights protecting him from unlawful searches. He contended the test-firing "constituted a search which exceeded the scope of any inventory or care taking purpose."

The court questioned whether Engram expressed any expectation of privacy and, if so, whether that expectation can be viewed as reasonable. The appellate judges decided against Engram in both questions. The court determined that the test-firing didn't reveal any private information but provided an additional means to identify his weapon apart from the serial number.

"Engram has not shown that the markings made by his firearm on bullets and casings constitutes a privacy interest that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable," Judge Edward Najam wrote. "Given the dangers of firearms when improperly used and the connection between firearms and violent crime, we cannot conclude that society is willing to recognize a privacy interest in the markings made by firearms on bullets and casings."

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  1. Bob Leonard killed two people named Jennifer and Dion Longworth. There were no Smiths involved.

  2. Being on this journey from the beginning has convinced me the justice system really doesn't care about the welfare of the child. The trial court judge knew the child belonged with the mother. The father having total disregard for the rules of the court. Not only did this cost the mother and child valuable time together but thousands in legal fees. When the child was with the father the mother paid her child support. When the child was finally with the right parent somehow the father got away without having to pay one penny of child support. He had to be in control. Since he withheld all information regarding the child's welfare he put her in harms way. Mother took the child to the doctor when she got sick and was totally embarrassed she knew nothing regarding the medical information especially the allergies, The mother texted the father (from the doctors office) and he replied call his attorney. To me this doesn't seem like a concerned father. Seeing the child upset when she had to go back to the father. What upset me the most was finding out the child sleeps with him. Sometimes in the nude. Maybe I don't understand all the rules of the law but I thought this was also morally wrong. A concerned parent would allow the child to finish the school year. Say goodbye to her friends. It saddens me to know the child will not have contact with the sisters, aunts, uncles and the 87 year old grandfather. He didn't allow it before. Only the mother is allowed to talk to the child. I don't think now will be any different. I hope the decision the courts made would've been the same one if this was a member of their family. Someday this child will end up in therapy if allowed to remain with the father.

  3. Ok attorney Straw ... if that be a good idea ... And I am not saying it is ... but if it were ... would that be ripe prior to her suffering an embarrassing remand from the Seventh? Seems more than a tad premature here soldier. One putting on the armor should not boast liked one taking it off.

  4. The judge thinks that she is so cute to deny jurisdiction, but without jurisdiction, she loses her immunity. She did not give me any due process hearing or any discovery, like the Middlesex case provided for that lawyer. Because she has refused to protect me and she has no immunity because she rejected jurisdiction, I am now suing her in her district.

  5. Sam Bradbury was never a resident of Lafayette he lived in rural Tippecanoe County, Thats an error.

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