COA: Police didn't need to search car after stop

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a man's unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon conviction, ruling the warrantless search of the car the man was driving violated his federal and state constitutional rights.

In light of the recent United States Supreme Court ruling in Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 129 S. Ct. 170, 1719 (2009), the appellate court here reversed Timothy Hathaway's conviction because there was no reasonable basis for the arresting officer to search the car following the traffic stop. Hathaway was pulled over after a police officer saw him make a right turn without properly signaling and for having dark-tinted windows. Hathaway was originally arrested for driving while suspended with a prior judgment and told officers the car was registered to his sister. Both he and his passenger cooperated with police.

The police officer searched the car as part of a search incident to arrest and an inventory search prior to towing the vehicle. He found a gun under the driver's seat, and Hathaway admitted the gun was his. Hathaway's sister arrived at the scene and was allowed to drive her car home.

Hathaway was only charged with unlawful possession and not any traffic infractions or driving with a suspended license. He filed a motion to suppress the handgun, which was denied.

In Timothy Hathaway v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0807-CR-568, the appellate court found Gant to be similar to the instant case. Gant was arrested for driving while suspended and police found cocaine in his car. The U.S. Supreme Court held in cases where the recent occupant of a car is arrested for a traffic violation, there isn't a reasonable basis to believe the car contains relevant evidence.

Under the Indiana Constitution, the burden is on the state to show the search was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, wrote Senior Judge Betty Barteau. There weren't any facts in this case to show the police officer needed to search Hathaway's car to find or preserve evidence of driving with a suspended license. Everyone cooperated and the officer didn't testify he feared for his safety during the stop. Based on the facts of the case, the search was unreasonable under the Indiana Constitution, she wrote.

The appellate court reversed Hathaway's conviction and sentence and remanded for it to be vacated.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.