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COA: Officer's observation didn't violate man's rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a defendant’s various drug convictions and sentence, finding the police officer didn’t violate the man’s Fourth Amendment rights by looking in the defendant’s car when trying to serve a warrant.

In Jeffrey D. Boggs v. State of Indiana, No. 40A01-0907-CR-346, Jeffrey Boggs argued the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence obtained from a search warrant that was based on information discovered during a warrantless and unconstitutional search of his car on his property. Police went to Boggs’ home to see if he was home to pick up his minor daughter who was in the car of a woman who was arrested on an outstanding warrant. While on the way to Boggs’ home, police discovered he was wanted on a warrant in Ohio.

Boggs wasn’t home and as the officer was leaving Boggs’ property, he shined a flashlight into a car he knew belonged to Boggs. Inside he saw an altered propane tank sticking out of a duffle bag. Police then got a search warrant for the property and found various items and drugs used to make methamphetamine.

Boggs moved to suppress the evidence, which was denied. On appeal, he argued the evidence shouldn’t have been admitted because the officer’s observation of the tank in the car was an unconstitutional search of the car parked in his driveway.

Boggs’ Fourth Amendment rights weren’t violated, the appellate court ruled, because the officer had a legitimate reason for being on Boggs’ property, he didn’t move or manipulate anything in order to see the tank, and he never left the normal routes of ingress or egress. Caselaw also says that the use of a flashlight doesn’t transform an officer’s observations into a search.

The Court of Appeals also ruled the state proved the identity of certain substances admitted into evidence, including pseudoephedrine and anhydrous ammonia, and proved that Boggs’ is a habitual offender.

The appellate court affirmed his 40-year aggregate sentence, but did remand the case to the trial court to correct the sentencing order to reflect that Boggs was sentenced to 15 years for his Class B felony conviction of attempted dealing in methamphetamine, enhanced by 25 years for the habitual offender finding.
 

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