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Judges affirm sniff search in hotel did not violate guest’s constitutional rights

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A trial court properly admitted contraband seized from a woman’s hotel room into evidence, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. One judge on the panel departed from his colleagues’ need to discuss that the officers’ search was justified because they acted in good faith.

The Holiday Inn Express in Martinsville was concerned that drug use was occurring in the hotel after finding paraphernalia in its rooms, so it asked Martinsville Police to bring canine units to the hotel to conduct free air sniffs in the common areas and hallways.

A sniff by canine Dasko in a hallway led police officer Blake Long to Kimberly Blankenship’s room. She denied permission to enter, but while the door was open, officers saw another woman, Courtney Malone, asleep on a bed. When Blankenship was unable to wake her up, an officer entered the room fearing for her safety and woke her up.

The officers then applied for a search warrant, and upon executing it, found drugs, a digital scale, needles and other paraphernalia. Blankenship was convicted of Class D felonies unlawful possession of a syringe and maintaining a common nuisance.

She appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the items from the hotel room into evidence. She claimed the dog’s sniff search of the hallways violated her rights under Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution.

“In sum, we need not reach Blankenship’s argument that Article 1, Section 11 prohibited the officers from walking canine units in the common area of the hotel, at the hotel management’s request, absent reasonable suspicion,” Judge Edward Najam wrote in Kimberly D. Blankenship v. State of Indiana, 55A05-1307-CR-342. “The officers searched Blankenship’s hotel room while objectively and reasonably relying on a search warrant. There is no evidence that the officers had knowledge, or should be charged with knowledge, that the sniff-search in the hallway may have been unconstitutional. Accordingly, there is no ‘wrongful police conduct’ to deter, and suppression of the evidence under the exclusionary rule would not be appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances of this case.”

Judge John Baker concurred in result, writing that the evidence in this case establishes that Dasko’s sniff sweep at the hotel, at the manager’s request, was reasonable, and the good faith reliance discussion by the majority set forth in Hoop v. State, 990 N.E.2d 463 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), does not control the outcome here.

 

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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