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Tyler R. Browder v. State of Indiana - 4/26/17

4/27/17 1:00 pm EST

1 p.m. 49A04-1608-CR-01857. Cathedral High School. This case arises out of a traffic stop made just before midnight on November 11, 2014, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tyler Browder (“Browder”) was driving from his apartment complex to a fast-food restaurant in a car with a license plate that was registered to a different vehicle. An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer, Sgt. Brady Ball (“Officer Ball”), driving behind Browder ran the license plate and found it did not match the vehicle. Officer Ball then pulled Browder over into a nearby gas station because he suspected the vehicle might be stolen. At that time, Officer Ball turned on his audio recording device and the rest of the stop and arrest were recorded.

During the stop, Browder claimed that he and his wife had just purchased this vehicle and he thought they had thirty days to use the transferred plate from their previous vehicle. The Officer Ball explained that the statute required Browder have the title or bill of sale in the vehicle. Browder stated that the paperwork was at his home with his wife and indicated that he did not have a paper registration for the vehicle either.

The officer returned to his patrol car and ran Browder’s driver’s license and criminal history against BMV and police records. The IMPD officer found that the vehicle was not registered to Browder and discovered that Browder had been a suspect in a prior auto theft. After learning this information about fifteen minutes into the stop, the officer asked Browder to step out of the vehicle in order to question him further about the vehicle’s ownership and his criminal history.

During this conversation, Officer Ball asked Browder if there was any identifying paperwork left in the vehicle from the previous owner. He also asked Browder if anything illegal was in the vehicle. Seventeen minutes into the stop, Browder stated there was nothing illegal in the vehicle and told Officer Ball that he could “check it.” There was further discussion between the two, and Officer Ball advised Browder of his right to refuse a search. Browder stated he had “nothing to hide” and that the officer could search the vehicle.

In the vehicle, the officer found a marijuana pipe under an insert in the center console. The officer then handcuffed Browder and placed him in the patrol car. Browder admitted that he smokes marijuana but denied ownership of the pipe and knowledge that it was in the vehicle. Browder was charged with possession of paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor, and operating a vehicle on a transferred plate for more than thirty-one days, a Class C infraction.

The infraction was later dismissed by the State. The Marion Superior Court conducted a three-part bench trial on March 7, April 26, and July 20, 2016, where Browder was found guilty of possession of paraphernalia. During the trial, Browder objected to the admission of the pipe found during the stop.

Browder appeals the trial court’s decision to admit the evidence from the vehicle search, arguing that the search and seizure violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Specifically, Browder argues that the extension of the stop for a traffic infraction was unreasonable. Browder also argues that his consent to search was not voluntary and, therefore, did not give the officer the authority to search the vehicle. The State responds that the officer did have reasonable suspicion to further investigate based on the nature of the traffic infraction. Thus, the State contends that there are no constitutional violations and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence.