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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. OK, now do something about this preverted anacronism

  2. William Hartley prosecutor of Wabash county constantly violates people rights. Withholds statement's, is bias towards certain people. His actions have ruined lives and families. In this county you question him or go out of town for a lawyer,he finds a way to make things worse for you. Unfair,biased and crooked.

  3. why is the State trying to play GOD? Automatic sealing of a record is immoral. People should have the right to decide how to handle a record. the state is playing GOD. I have searched for decades, then you want me to pay someone a huge price to contact my son. THIS is extortion and gestapo control. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW. OPEN THE RECORDS NOW.

  4. I haven't made some of the best choices in the last two years I have been to marion county jail 1 and two on three different occasions each time of release dates I've spent 48 to 72 hours after date of release losing a job being denied my freedom after ordered please help

  5. Out here in Kansas, where I now work as a government attorney, we are nearing the end of a process that could have relevance in this matter: "Senate Bill 45 would allow any adult otherwise able to possess a handgun under state and federal laws to carry that gun concealed as a matter of course without a permit. This move, commonly called constitutional carry, would elevate the state to the same club that Vermont, Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming have joined in the past generation." More reading here: http://www.guns.com/2015/03/18/kansas-house-panel-goes-all-in-on-constitutional-carry-measure/ Time to man up, Hoosiers. (And I do not mean that in a sexist way.)

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