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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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