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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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