ILNews

Court rejects stale trash evidence argument

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals has rejected an argument that evidence found in a trash search was stale because no other garbage had been collected in the past two weeks and that seized material could have been too old.

In the case of Donald T. Shell v. State of Indiana, No. 48A02-0904-CR-325, an appellate panel delved into a man’s felony convictions for drug possession in Madison County that resulted in an 18-year sentence. The appeals judges affirmed the ruling by Madison Superior Judge Dennis Carroll, which admitted evidence from the police search warrant investigation of Donald T. Shell’s home and denied Shell’s request for disclosure of a confidential informant’s identity.

Anderson police investigated Shell in summer 2008 after a confidential informant told police that Shell was selling cocaine and marijuana while living at his girlfriend’s home. Police couldn’t initially search the trash because none was placed outside for two weeks, but in the third week garbage was placed in front of the residence on the night before the scheduled trash collection. Inside two trash bags, police found plant materials and stems that tested positive for marijuana, and several plastic baggies with white residue tested positive for cocaine. Police obtained a search warrant for the residence, and found drugs, paraphernalia, and cash hidden inside.

Shell was charged with six felonies and later filed a motion to suppress the seized evidence, claiming the search warrant was based on evidence found during an improper trash pull. The trial judge denied Shell’s motion and other claims, and overruled his objections at trial where he was found guilty on five of the felony counts. He received a concurrent sentence totaling 18 years.

On appeal, Shell raised the claim about the stale trash evidence that meant the residential search warrant was invalid and the evidence should have been tossed.

“Although the age of the information supporting an application for a warrant can be a critical factor when determining the existence of probable cause, our courts have not established a bright-line rule regarding the amount of time that may elapse between obtaining the facts upon which the search warrant is based and the issue of the warrant,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote. “Shell argues that because no trash had been put out for collection in the two weeks prior to the trash search, the evidence found in the trash search was also stale because it could have been placed in the trash in the two weeks before the search. Shell cites no authority for this novel proposition, and we reject it.”

Using guidance outlined in the landmark decision State v. Litchfield, 824 N.E.2d 356, 363 (Ind. 2005), the appellate panel concluded the trash search was supported by the necessary “articulable individualized suspicion” and that the obtained evidence was admissible. The appellate court also affirmed Judge Carroll’s other findings and the sentence imposed.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

ADVERTISEMENT