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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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