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COA orders trial on drug charges

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On interlocutory appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s denial of an Elkhart County man’s motion to suppress evidence police seized from him and his residence while investigating possible drug dealing.

Police believed Ignacio Perez may have been involved in supplying cocaine to a man who sold the drug to an undercover officer. Three cars involved in the drug buys were seen at Perez’s property, including one registered in his name. Police went to Perez’s home to speak with him, and Perez freely stepped outside and closed his front door. He seemed nervous and became agitated when his wife opened the door. He yelled at her in Spanish and bumped into an officer trying to get to the front door, which led to police putting Perez in handcuffs and charging him with resisting law enforcement.

A dog sniff of the closed front door alerted officers to the presence of illegal narcotics. A search warrant turned up cocaine, a handgun, ammunition, scales, plastic baggies and more than $2,400 in cash. Perez was charged with Class A felony dealing in cocaine and Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. He filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized, which was denied.

Perez argues that the evidence must be suppressed because the police illegally detained him and handcuffed him, so his arrest for resisting law enforcement was unlawful and the subsequent search of his person violated his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Perez also claims that there was no probable cause to issue the search warrant for his residence and that the evidence seized during the search of his residence was unlawful.

In Ignacio Perez v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1206-CR-247, the judges noted the encounter between police and Perez began consensually and they rejected his claim that his detention was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment merely because the police were on his property.

The police had reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot and could lawfully detain Perez based on the evidence that Perez’s home was linked to multiple sales of cocaine, he had surveillance cameras set up outside, and he locked his front door and moved away from it when talking to police, the judges held. The officers also didn’t know what Perez was yelling in Spanish to his wife, so it was reasonable for them to detain him to control the scene.

The trial court properly denied the motion to suppress the cash seized from Perez following his arrest for resisting law enforcement, and the canine sniff was not an illegal search, the COA ruled.

Finally, the judges found that probable cause existed to issue the search warrant and that Perez’s claims that the search and seizure were violations under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution also fail.

 

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