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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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