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COA: Search of passenger not unconstitutional

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The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a woman’s claim that drugs found in her possession should not have been admitted at trial because a police search of her after a traffic stop violated the federal and state constitutions.

Plymouth Police Officer John Weir pulled over the car driven by Christopher Fields after it crossed the center line several times. Charla Richard was in the front passenger seat. Because Fields had a warrant outstanding, he was arrested. Weir then walked his police dog, Rex, around the car. Rex alerted at the driver’s door. Officer Bridget Hite searched Richard. When Richard raised her arm, a small tin fell out of her shirt. The tin contained methamphetamine.

The trial court denied Richard’s motions to suppress the evidence. She argued the drug evidence was inadmissible because the search of a person based on the police dog’s positive alert violated her Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 rights.

The judges cited Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 124 S. Ct. 795, 157 L. Ed. 2d 769 (2003), to support that Richard’s mere presence as a passenger in the suspect vehicle is enough to establish probable cause as to her.

“Here, Rex’s positive alert provided probable cause to believe there were drugs in the vehicle. And there was no indication that Fields, and only Fields, was involved in narcotics activity. It was thus an entirely reasonable inference that any of the vehicle’s occupants had at least constructive possession of drugs,” Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard wrote in Charla P. Richard v. State of Indiana, 50A03-1307-CR-297.

There was also no violation of the Indiana Constitution, the judges held, pointing to the minimal nature of the search, the high degree of suspicion that Richard actually or constructively possessed illegal drugs, and because the extent of law enforcement needs was significant.


 

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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