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Justices affirm convictions after toddler found wandering by police

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The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the admittance of drugs and other evidence obtained by police after searching an apartment following a report of an unattended child. The justices found both parents gave their consent for police to make sure the apartment was fit before returning the child to their care.

Police found an unsupervised toddler wandering half-naked near a pond in an apartment complex. Nick McIlquham approached police and told them he was the father and he had fallen asleep while watching her. Police told McIlquham they need to come back and make sure his apartment was safe for the girl and they would likely call child protection services. McIlquham consented and as they entered the apartment, he quickly headed for the kitchen. The officers saw him put something in his pants, so they conducted a pat down and discovered marijuana. More drugs and paraphernalia were in plain sight.

Police called the girl’s mother, who was the person who signed the apartment lease, and when she arrived home was upset to learn police had found drugs. They told her that CPS would be notified but it was not their decision as to whether the girl would be removed from the home. She consented to a full search of the home, and officers found more drugs and a gun in a bedroom. McIlquham admitted they were his and the girl’s mother did not know about them.

He pleaded guilty to neglect of a dependent and marijuana possession charges, and went to trial on firearm, dealing and paraphernalia counts. He sought to suppress the admittance of the evidence found during the searches, claiming he and the mother consented under duress of threats to take the girl into CPS custody. The trial court denied the motion and he was found guilty of the firearm and paraphernalia charges.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, citing the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment, but the justices affirmed on the grounds that McIlquham and the mother validly consented to the searches.

The justices found no coercive words or actions in this case. Justice Loretta Rush noted that McIlquham initially approached police, so the encounter began as consensual and that he was allowed to carry his daughter back to the apartment.

“[W]hen Defendant told police ‘it was okay’ to check the apartment, we find no reason not to take his consent at face value,” she wrote in Nick McIlquham v. State of Indiana, 49S05-1401-CR-28.

“Making a ‘bee line’ to the kitchen, then furtively stuffing unknown objects into his pockets, amply warranted a pat-down for officer safety — and thus to discovery of the scales, cash, and additional marijuana that were in plain view on the counter. It was well within the trial court’s discretion to admit those items into evidence on the basis of consent, so we need not address the “community caretaking” rationale on which the Court of Appeals relied.”

The justices also rejected McIlquham’s claims that the mother was in custody or under duress when she consented to the apartment search. Rush noted that police told her it was up to the Department of Child Services and not police as to whether the girl would be taken into custody by CPS. And the record shows that the mother was eager for police help to find and confiscate anything that would be hazardous to her child.

 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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