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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. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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