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COA upholds stop of teen with gun

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found the stop by police of a teen at a summer expo in Indianapolis who had a loaded gun in his waistband didn’t violate the teen’s state or federal constitutional rights. The appellate court also concluded the juvenile court’s comments to the teen’s father don’t require a remand.

Teen W.H. was attending Black Expo in Indianapolis when police officers who were in a building above where W.H. was standing outside thought he may have a gun. The officers saw him lift his shirt, make hand movements toward his waist, and show something from his waistband. The officers radioed a description to police near the street corner, which had approximately 50 to 100 people on it.

Officers detained W.H., who matched the description. He initially tried to resist and denied he had a gun. Police found a gun in his waistband. He was charged with various offenses, including Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license.

W.H. moved to suppress evidence because he thought it was the result of an unconstitutional search; the juvenile court denied the motion. At the hearing, W.H.’s father addressed the court, saying he was concerned that anyone could have fit the description given by the officers. The judge reinforced that W.H. had a loaded gun.

In W.H. v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0912-JV-1166, the appellate court affirmed W.H.’s federal and state constitutional rights weren’t violated by the stop and search by the officers. The police officers who stopped W.H. were alerted by other officers and had reasonable suspicion to stop him. The officers could reasonably believe W.H. had a weapon in his waistband and was showing it off. The officers weren’t required to rule out innocent explanations of why W.H. was lifting up his shirt, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. Also based on the number of people around, the officers were monitoring the crowds for public safety. W.H.’s Fourth Amendment rights weren’t violated.

Nor were his rights violated under Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Based on the degree of suspicion that W.H. had a gun, the brevity and unintrusive nature of the stop, and the need to maintain safety, the officers didn’t act unreasonably, the appellate court ruled.

W.H. also claimed that the juvenile court offered no explanation for the constitutional basis of its suppression ruling and the case should be remanded for the juvenile court to explain its reasons. But a trial court doesn’t have to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law in connection with a motion to suppress evidence, wrote Judge Vaidik. In addition, the record shows the juvenile court properly based its ruling on the constitutionality of the officers’ search.

“The juvenile court simply admonished W.H.’s father for permitting W.H. to attend the Black Expo with a loaded gun,” she wrote. “These comments were irrelevant to the determination of reasonable suspicion and the constitutionality of the police officers’ stop-and-frisk.”

 

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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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