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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. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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