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COA: Warrant didn't need to be admitted

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In a case of first impression involving whether an active arrest warrant must be admitted into evidence when the defendant has not challenged the warrant's validity, the Court of Appeals has affirmed an appellant-defendant's conviction of Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana that an officer discovered during a routine traffic stop.

The sole issue on appeal in Josa Williams v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0806-CR-505, was whether the trial court abused its discretion and violated Josa Williams' constitutional rights by admitting evidence of marijuana seized from the appellant's person.

When Williams was stopped for a routine traffic violation Jan. 23, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Demetric Smith discovered there was an outstanding warrant for Williams' arrest. Officer Smith then handcuffed and searched Williams, and discovered a bag of marijuana in Williams' pocket.

On Jan. 24, Williams was charged with Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana. A bench trial was held March 12; the trial court overruled Williams' objection to the introduction of the marijuana, because it was "evidence gained as a result of the allege[d] warrant," according to trial records referenced in the Court of Appeals opinion.

After the trial, Williams filed a motion to suppress evidence of the marijuana. The trial court denied Williams' motion April 18, and found him guilty as charged.

"Williams argues that the State failed to prove that the arrest was lawful and that, as such, evidence of the marijuana produced in the search should not have been admitted. See Best v. State, 817 N.E.2d 685, 689 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004) (holding search of defendant's person impermissible where arrest warrant is invalid at time of search)," Judge Terry Crone wrote.

"Here, Williams never challenged the validity of the warrant, and there was no evidence that the warrant was invalid. However, he argues that the State's failure to place the arrest warrant in evidence amounts to reversible error," Judge Crone added.

In a footnote, it is noted that Officer Smith's testimony at trial regarding the existence of the outstanding warrant was enough for this case.

"We note that the warrant was referenced in detail by cause number in the probable cause affidavit filed with the charging information. ... We also note that the warrant is a public record easily accessible to Williams, and there is no indication of any motion to compel discovery of it," Judge Crone wrote.

The opinion mentions an Indiana Supreme Court case, Guajardo v. State, 496 N.E.2d 1300 (Ind. 1986), that notes "the State was obligated to introduce the search warrant and probable cause affidavit into evidence after [the defendant] challenged the adequacy of the warrant," but this does not apply to outstanding arrest warrants.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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