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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. 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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