ILNews

Justices affirm search warrant, convictions

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court yesterday affirmed a defendant's convictions of dealing in cocaine and possession of marijuana because the initial search warrant was supported by sufficient probable cause. One justice dissented, fearing the logic used by the majority to affirm the search warrant would invite more searches by the government that could violate both the U.S. and Indiana constitutions.

In Willie Eaton v. State of Indiana, No. 89S04-0802-CR-106, Willie Eaton appealed his drug convictions, arguing the initial search warrant wasn't supported by probable cause and the trial court erroneously admitted evidence seized without sufficient authorization in the search warrants.

Eaton went to a muffler store in Richmond to meet with Edgar Gonzalez, who earlier in the day police stopped for speeding. Police found cocaine in the car and Gonzalez admitted he was on his way to deliver it to some men in Richmond. The police officer rode with Gonzalez to his destination and implanted a recording device in the vehicle.

After they reached the muffler store and Eaton arrived, police entered the business. A warrant was issued to search Eaton's home based on the police officer that rode with Gonzalez stating that drug traffickers commonly kept money and records regarding drug trades on cell phones, computers, and other items at home.

During the search for records, police saw several items in the home - including cocaine - that resulted in a second warrant, which was granted for seizure of various additional items.

The majority of the high court found the police established probable cause to allow for the first search warrant. The affidavit shows Eaton was involved in receiving and unloading a large amount of drugs and incriminating records were likely to be found at his home.

"Evaluating the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the facts set forth in the affidavit established a fair probability, that is, a substantial chance, that evidence of drug trafficking would be found at the defendant's residence," wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

The police were allowed to take items during the second search warrant that weren't enumerated in the search warrant because they inadvertently discovered items of apparent criminality while rightfully occupying a particular location, the justice wrote, citing Jones v. State, 783 N.E.2d 1132, 1137 (Ind. 2003), and Houser v. State, 678 N.E.2d 95, 101 (Ind. 1997).

Justice Robert Rucker dissented, finding as a matter of law that none of the facts from the officer's affidavit established probable cause to search Eaton's house.

"Today's ruling invites the Government's search of a suspect's business, home, garage, tool shed, workshop, or any other property a suspect may use simply because a law enforcement officer believes, without more, that evidence of crime can be found there. In my view this is an anathema to the mandate of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution," he wrote.
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  1. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  2. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

  3. She must be a great lawyer

  4. Ind. Courts - "Illinois ranks 49th for how court system serves disadvantaged" What about Indiana? A story today from Dave Collins of the AP, here published in the Benton Illinois Evening News, begins: Illinois' court system had the third-worst score in the nation among state judiciaries in serving poor, disabled and other disadvantaged members of the public, according to new rankings. Illinois' "Justice Index" score of 34.5 out of 100, determined by the nonprofit National Center for Access to Justice, is based on how states serve people with disabilities and limited English proficiency, how much free legal help is available and how states help increasing numbers of people representing themselves in court, among other issues. Connecticut led all states with a score of 73.4 and was followed by Hawaii, Minnesota, New York and Delaware, respectively. Local courts in Washington, D.C., had the highest overall score at 80.9. At the bottom was Oklahoma at 23.7, followed by Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Indiana. ILB: That puts Indiana at 46th worse. More from the story: Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee and Maine had perfect 100 scores in serving people with disabilities, while Indiana, Georgia, Wyoming, Missouri and Idaho had the lowest scores. Those rankings were based on issues such as whether interpretation services are offered free to the deaf and hearing-impaired and whether there are laws or rules allowing service animals in courthouses. The index also reviewed how many civil legal aid lawyers were available to provide free legal help. Washington, D.C., had nearly nine civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty, the highest rate in the country. Texas had the lowest rate, 0.43 legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty. http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2014/11/ind_courts_illi_1.html

  5. A very thorough opinion by the federal court. The Rooker-Feldman analysis, in particular, helps clear up muddy water as to the entanglement issue. Looks like the Seventh Circuit is willing to let its district courts cruise much closer to the Indiana Supreme Court's shorelines than most thought likely, at least when the ADA on the docket. Some could argue that this case and Praekel, taken together, paint a rather unflattering picture of how the lower courts are being advised as to their duties under the ADA. A read of the DOJ amicus in Praekel seems to demonstrate a less-than-congenial view toward the higher echelons in the bureaucracy.

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