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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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