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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. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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