ILNews

Judges find search of car for gun not justified

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges reversed the denial of a defendant's motion to suppress evidence of drugs found in his car during a search, but one judge believed the man's cooperation and respect toward the police officer shouldn't factor into their decision making.

In Melvin Washington v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0907-CV-649, Melvin Washington brought an interlocutory appeal of the denial to suppress evidence. An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer pulled over Washington's car because of a broken headlight. Washington was cooperative with the officer and admitted he had a gun under his front seat when asked if he had any weapons. Washington had a valid permit to carry the gun. While looking under the seat to get the gun, the officer saw a bag of marijuana.

He was charged with Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana. The trial court denied his motion to suppress the drug evidence. Washington argued that the search violated his rights under the state and federal constitutions.

The appellate judges unanimously agreed that Washington's motion to suppress should have been granted, but came to their conclusion through different analyses. Judges Michael Kirsch and Carr Darden relied on Malone v. State, 882 N.E.2d 784, 786 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), to conclude that in the absence of an articulable basis that either there was a legitimate concern for officer safety or a belief that a crime had been or was being committed, searching Washington's car wasn't justified. The arresting officer testified he wasn't specifically concerned for his safety during the stop and Washington made no furtive movements, was respectful, and cooperated with the officer.

Judge Melissa May concurred in a separate opinion and wrote that the motion to suppress should have been granted based on Arizona v. Gant, U.S. 129 S. Ct. 1710, 1723-24 (2009). Even though Gant involved an arrest instead of a traffic stop, Washington was also removed from his car and handcuffed and his statement that there was a gun under his seat couldn't justify a search of the car based on concern for officer safety.

"...Gant created a rule that relieves all of us from the burden of determining whether subjective facts (such as cooperation, respectfulness, and furtive movements) create 'an articulable basis' that a search is necessary for officer safety," she wrote. "...It seems to me, the rule articulated in Gant simultaneously increases protection for two important interests: the safety of our police officers and the constitutional rights of our citizens. As we all too frequently must choose between competing interests when deciding cases, I believe we ought to take full advantage of this opportunity."

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

ADVERTISEMENT