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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. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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