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Judges disagree in police entry case

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge dissented from his colleagues' decision denying a man's motion to suppress evidence because he didn't believe the police officers were justified in kicking down the man's door and entering his apartment.

In his dissent in Luis E. Duran v. State of Indiana,  No. 45A03-0811-CR-569, Judge Carr Darden cited the fact the police were trying to serve a routine arrest warrant for Nelson Hernandez for a charge of auto theft and the officers' testimony about how they came to Luis Duran's apartment instead and their actions inside as reasons for why he would grant Duran's motion to suppress evidence.

A bystander in an apartment complex told police that Hernandez lived on the second floor of the building and had a green door. That apartment actually belonged to Duran; Hernandez was staying in a different apartment on the second floor. Police knew Hernandez had been recently injured and on crutches.

The police knocked on the green-door apartment, to which Duran responded, "Hold on a minute" after police identified themselves. After hearing some rustling and then silence, the police kicked down the door and found Duran alone in the apartment with a bag of cocaine on the window sill. He was charged with Class A felony dealing in cocaine and Class C felony possession of cocaine; the trial court denied his motion to suppress.

Duran argued on appeal the entry into his apartment violated the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution.

The majority examined caselaw, including Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 576 (1980), and Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204, 212, 215-16 (1981), and the Circuit courts' interpretations of the holdings to conclude that the police needed reasonable belief that Hernandez resided at the green-door apartment and that Hernandez was at the apartment at the time of entry.

The majority found the officers' reliance on the testimony from the bystander to be reasonable because one of the officers could corroborate part of the bystander's story, the green door was important because the apartment lacked identifying numbers or mailboxes, and the man didn't want to be identified because he didn't want to be "in trouble with" Hernandez. The officers also believed Hernandez to be in the apartment because they knew he was immobile because of an injury and the long delay in answering the door.

Judges Margret Robb and L. Mark Bailey ruled the officers didn't violate Duran's Fourth Amendment rights or his rights under Article I, Section 11 because the Litchfield factors, in their totality, favor a finding the officers' conduct was reasonable.

Judge Darden relied heavily on the conflicting testimony of the arresting officers surrounding the entry of the apartment for why he would grant the motion to suppress.

"I appreciate the majority's careful attention to precedent in reaching the result it has. However, I am deeply troubled by testimony indicating that police officers believe that when the resident of a dwelling does not open a door, after having simply heard the announcement that 'police' are outside, the officers may kick in that door to gain entry," he wrote.

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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