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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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  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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