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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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