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Court: Search invalid, statements admissible

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A defendant did not have the ability to consent to a police search of the car he was riding in because the driver's consent to the search was invalid, ruled the Indiana Supreme Court Wednesday. The court also ruled the defendant's recorded statements made in the back of a police cruiser were voluntary and admissible at his trial.

In Sergio Campos v. State of Indiana, No. 45S03-0804-CR-199, Sergio Campos was the passenger in a car driven by Cesar Santiago-Armendariz, which was stopped by police officer Alfred Villarreal for speeding. Officer Villarreal noticed Santiago-Armendariz was acting nervous and had him sit in his police car while Campos remained in the passenger seat.

Santiago-Armendariz and Campos gave conflicting stories about what airport they were coming from and who owned the car. Santiago-Armendariz said it was Campos' brother's car but gave a name different from what was on the car's registration. Campos said it was his brother's car and gave a different name than Santiago-Armendariz did. Officer Villarreal determined the car wasn't stolen and wrote Santiago-Armendariz a warning.

As Santiago-Armendariz was returning to his car, the police officer asked if he had anything illegal in the car and asked if he could search it. Santiago-Armendariz asked if it was necessary and Officer Villarreal answered yes; Santiago-Armendariz then allegedly consented to the search. The officer asked Campos if he could search the car, and Campos said the officer would have to ask Santiago-Armendariz. Officer Villarreal responded that Santiago-Armendariz agreed to the search, so Campos also agreed.

Both Campos and Santiago-Armendariz sat in the back of the police car while Officer Villarreal searched the car and found cocaine. Their conversation in the police cruiser, which contained admissions to having drugs in the car, was recorded without their knowledge.

Campos was charged with Class A felony dealing in cocaine. He moved to suppress the recording of his and Santiago-Armendariz's statements and the cocaine found in the car because he believed his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were violated, as well as Article I, Sections 11 and 14 of the Indiana Constitution. The trial court denied both motions. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's ruling.

The evidence seized during the search of the car should not have been admissible during trial, ruled the high court. The search was not valid because the police officer did not get valid consent from Santiago-Armendariz or Campos. By telling Santiago-Armendariz that a search of his car was necessary, which led Santiago-Armendariz to think he couldn't refuse the search, it made his consent invalid.

Campos was the person authorized by the car's owner to control the use of the car, so Campos' consent had to be obtained in order to search. When Villarreal asked Campos if he could search the car, Campos only consented after he was told Santiago-Armendariz did. Because his consent was based on Officer Villarreal's representation Santiago-Armendariz had given consent, Campos' consent was invalid because Santiago-Armendariz's consent was invalid, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm.

"We therefore find the search to violate both article I, section 11 of the Indiana Constitution and the Fourth Amendment, and all evidence seized from it must be suppressed," he wrote.

Campos challenged that his rights under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution had been violated because he didn't waive his right to counsel before giving a valid consent to search by receiving a Pirtle warning. Campos believed he was in custody when Officer Villarreal asked him to search the car, but only Santiago-Armendariz was in custody, wrote Justice Boehm. Campos wasn't told that the search was necessary and wasn't in custody, so his Pirtle rights were not violated.

The statements Santiago-Armendariz and Campos made while in the back of the police car are admissible in trial because they were given freely without duress or coercion, wrote Justice Boehm. Because Campos wasn't under interrogation, he did not need to receive a Miranda warning of his right to remain silent.

"In sum, Campos's statements were voluntary under the Fifth Amendment and he had no expectation of privacy in the police cruiser under the Fourth Amendment," he wrote.

The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of Campos' motion to suppress the statements he made in the police vehicle and reversed the trial court denial of his motion to suppress the evidence found during the search of his car. The case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.
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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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