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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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