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Court affirms mobile meth lab conviction, sentence arising from car search

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A man’s conviction and 24-year sentence on charges related to a mobile meth lab found in his vehicle was affirmed Tuesday by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In Charles Hall v. State of Indiana, 13A04-1111-CR-622, the court rejected Hall’s argument that a search of his vehicle violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. Police found evidence of a methamphetamine lab, the finished drug and precursors in Hall’s vehicle.

Hall led police on a high-speed chase after a Crawford County sheriff’s deputy tried to initiate a traffic stop. Hall’s car ultimately came to rest in a field and he fled on foot. He argued on appeal that evidence obtained from the vehicle should have been excluded.

“We conclude that Hall abandoned his vehicle; therefore, the search did not implicate the Fourth Amendment. In light of Hall’s highly dangerous conduct and his lengthy record of convictions relating to driving and/or drug use, Hall has not persuaded us that his sentence is inappropriate,” Court of Appeals Judge Terry Crone wrote for the unanimous panel.

Hall was convicted of Class B felony dealing in methamphetamine, Class C felony possession of precursors, Class C felony operating a vehicle after a lifetime suspension, and Class D felony resisting law enforcement.

The court also noted that Hall created a public safety hazard during the chase and after abandoning the vehicle.

“He also left an active one-pot methamphetamine lab untended in his vehicle. State Police Officer Paul Andry, who was part of the team that removed the hazardous materials from Hall’s vehicle, testified that the one-pot method involves mixing the necessary chemicals in a closed bottle,” Crone wrote.

Pressurized gases result from the chemical interactions. “If the lab is not tended to, one of two things typically happens: either the pressure builds to the point where it causes an explosion and releases a lethal cloud of ammonia gas, or the mixture melts a hole in the bottle, and the exposure to oxygen causes the chemicals to ignite as they spew from the bottle, creating an effect like a flame thrower,” the opinion said.

“Officer Andry testified that these effects were capable of burning out an entire vehicle. Thus, the evidence raises an inference that Hall not only was attempting to disassociate himself with the vehicle, but also that he did not reasonably expect the vehicle to remain intact. There is ample evidence that Hall abandoned the vehicle; therefore, his Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the evidence obtained from the vehicle.”

 

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