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COA splits over reversing possession conviction

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A divided Court of Appeals upheld a man’s possession of marijuana conviction that stemmed from a 911 call. Dissenting Judge James Kirsch doesn’t believe that the providing of a name by a 911 caller removes this case from the category of an anonymous caller, thus the call doesn’t give police enough evidence to stop the car the defendant was in.

Officer Nicholas Lichtsinn responded to a 911 call that Phillip Billingsley was armed at a VFW post in Fort Wayne. The caller, who identified herself as Renita Brown, said Billingsley was the same person who “held her hostage” previously and that he was in a tan or brown Dodge Durango.

Lichtsinn knew the VFW to be a dangerous area, knew Billingsley, knew Billingsley to be a convicted felon, and knew Billingsley had a history of dangerous acquaintances when he responded to the call.

Lichtsinn found Billingsley in the passenger side of a Chevy Trailblazer that matched the color description. He called for backup, drew his gun and ordered Billingsley to put his hands on the roof of the SUV. After other officers arrived, Lichtsinn holstered his gun, patted Billingsley down and found marijuana on the seat where Billingsley sat.

He was charged and convicted of Class D felony possession of marijuana. The trial court denied Billingsley’s motion to suppress.

Judges Edward Najam and Melissa May upheld the conviction, finding the original detainment of Billingsley to be an investigatory stop. Litchtsinn’s use of his firearm was limited and he only had it drawn until backup arrived, Najam wrote.

They also rejected Billingsley’s claim that Brown’s 911 call was akin to an anonymous tip because the state and defense counsel couldn’t locate her.

“Moreover, Brown was not an anonymous caller but a concerned citizen. In her 9-1-1 call, she claimed both to have been a recent victim of Billingsley’s criminal activity and to be witnessing his ongoing criminal activity,” Najam wrote in Phillip T. Billingsley v. State of Indiana, 02A05-1204-CR-216.

Kirsch pointed out in his dissent that nothing known to Lichtsinn, nor provided to the court, allows the court to determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of the information provided by the caller. The only information that Brown accurately provided was that Billingsley was in the passenger seat of an SUV in the parking lot of the VFW and the color of that vehicle.

“I also do not believe that the information known to the investigating officer was sufficient to satisfy the standards established by our Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States for investigatory stops,” he wrote.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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