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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. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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