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Justices affirm trucker’s cocaine-dealing convictions

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The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the cocaine-dealing convictions of a truck driver who challenged the state police stop that led to discovery of the drugs and claimed he was denied a speedy trial.

In Patrick Austin v. State of Indiana, 20S03-1303-CR-158, troopers who initially stopped Patrick Austin allowed him to proceed after he refused consent to a search of the truck when an officer grew suspicious about driver logs and his purported destination, among other things.

Acting on those concerns, state police found Austin’s name linked to a prior $1 million bulk cash seizure in a Drug Enforcement Administration database. Austin was later stopped on a traffic infraction, after which a drug-sniffing dog indicated the presence of narcotics.

Justices affirmed the trial court convictions and 45-year aggregate sentence on two Class A felony charges, which the Court of Appeals also affirmed. The court took the case to address police action that led to the discovery and Austin’s argument that his trial violated the speedy trial window because it happened more than 70 days after his request.

Addressing the stop, Justice Steven David wrote for the court, “(W)e think this particular police operation exemplifies the balance between pursuing the law enforcement aim and protecting the constitutional rights of the suspect that the Indiana Constitution compels. … The end result was the discovery and seizure of nearly 90 pounds of cocaine hidden in a vehicle … and also the proper admission of that evidence at Austin’s trial.”

Likewise, Austin’s Criminal Rule 4 appeal claiming denial of a speedy trial was unpersuasive because the trial court produced compelling evidence of court congestion, and Austin was unable to meet his burden of showing a continuance beyond the 70-day speedy trial was clearly erroneous.

“However, we caution that ‘court congestion’ is not a blank check for poor judicial administration,” David wrote. “A defendant with adequate proof may successfully challenge a declaration of ‘court congestion’ on appeal. The protections afforded a defendant under Criminal Rule 4 are not to be trampled upon and trial courts must remain vigilant in its enforcement.”

 

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  1. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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