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Court split on burglary tipster issue

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A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed today as to whether the fact a tipster's identity was known by police was sufficient by itself to justify a police officer's stop of a juvenile.

In L.W. v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0909-JV-841, the majority concluded even though a tipster who identified himself to police as Brandon Shockley called to tell them that the burglary suspect officers were looking for was a tall, black male wearing a black shirt and black shoes, that information alone wasn't enough to justify an officer stopping L.W. for matching that description. When the officer approached L.W., he claimed L.W. looked like he wanted to run but didn't, and after a pat down, found he had a large number of coins in his pockets. A jug of coins was reported stolen in the burglary. After the officer learned a large amount of change was missing from the home, he arrested L.W. He then found some of the victim's jewelry and coins in L.W.'s pockets.

The officer didn't have reasonable suspicion to support an investigatory stop and the seizure violated L.W.'s Fourth Amendment rights, the majority concluded. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor Indiana Supreme Court has held that information from a tipster whose identity is known to police is sufficient per se to establish reasonable suspicion, wrote Judge Edward Najam for the majority. Law enforcement never verified Shockley's identity and didn't know how reliable he was prior to the stop. The majority used State v. Glass, 769 N.E.2d 639, 643 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), to support their ruling.

"Reasonable suspicion requires more than mere conjecture," wrote Judge Najam. "The fact that a named caller with an untested reputation called the police does not in itself establish reasonable suspicion."

But Judge Cale Bradford dissented from his colleagues in their decision to reverse L.W.'s adjudication as a delinquent child for committing what would be Class B felony burglary, and Class D felony theft if committed by an adult. Judge Bradford believed the officer in the instant case met the threshold required to justify a Terry stop and that since Shockley's identity was known to police, that by itself justified the stop.

"Given that there are no circumstances casting suspicion on Shockley's honesty, his status as a concerned citizen further increases the reliability of his information," wrote Judge Bradford. "Finally, I believe that the tip indicates Shockley's inside knowledge, bolstering its reliability even more."

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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