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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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