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Court rejects stale trash evidence argument

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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.
 

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  1. Such things are no more elections than those in the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

  2. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  3. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  4. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  5. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

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