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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. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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