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Judges dissent on search after 'knock and talk'

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge dissented from his colleagues' view that a police "knock and talk" investigation didn't violate a man's rights under the Indiana Constitution, fearing the circumstances of the case could lead to a general distrust of law enforcement.

In Kenneth Brown v. State of Indiana, No. 11A04-0904-CR-213, Kenneth Brown appealed his various drug convictions by arguing that the police's knock and talk investigation at his home violated his Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11 rights under the federal and state constitutions.

The police had just arrested someone for methamphetamine possession and received a tip the person got the drugs from Brown. Four police officers in three cars decided to drive to Brown's house at 2:30 a.m. to talk to Brown. They didn't have probable cause for a search warrant or to arrest Brown.

The four officers knocked on the door; when Brown answered, they explained the earlier arrest and asked to search Brown's home. Brown said only one officer could come in; that officer found drugs.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the admissibility of the evidence under the fundamental error doctrine, and Judges Margret Robb and Carr Darden ruled the knock and talk procedure didn't violate Brown's rights under the federal or state constitutions. Neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion is constitutionally prerequisite for a knock and talk investigation, and suspicion based on an anonymous tip is proper basis for officers to make inquiries of occupants, wrote Judge Robb. In addition, there's no evidence that the officers attempted to bully or intimidate Brown or did anything to show he wasn't free to close the door or refuse entry.

The majority also upheld the submission of the evidence and Brown's convictions.

Judge Paul Mathias dissented regarding only on the grounds that the investigation and search violated Brown's rights under the Indiana constitution. The judge noted the police said they were taking a "crap shot" to get into Brown's house because they didn't have anything to go on. That doesn't amount to a reasonable degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that criminal activity has occurred under Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 359 (Ind. 2005).

The degree of intrusion in this case was very high, with four officers and three police cars showing up at the home in the middle of the night. Judge Mathias didn't believe a reasonable person, roused from sleep and faced with these intimidating circumstances, would feel free to refuse the officers' request to search.

"When we expect a drowsy citizen to stand up to four armed officers who knock at the front door in the middle of the night without a search warrant, I believe we begin to establish a culture of general distrust of law enforcement and its motives that is corrosive to civil society," he wrote. "If 'law enforcement needs' prevail under circumstances like these, the greater right to privacy Hoosiers enjoy under Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution ... is ephemeral, if it exists at all."

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  1. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  2. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  3. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  4. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  5. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

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