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Justices rule officer didn't search car to find gun

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The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld a man’s firearm conviction, finding the police officer who found a handgun in the man’s car during a traffic stop wasn’t searching the car when he saw the gun.

Cedric Lewis appealed his conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and his 12-year sentence. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Romeo Jonson pulled Lewis’ car over after Lewis changed lanes without signaling. Lewis’ license had been suspended, so Jonson thought the car would be towed. He stuck his head in the car through the open driver’s side door to tell the passenger to get out of the car when he saw a handgun wedged between the driver’s seat and the center console.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, but in Cedric Lewis v. State of Indiana, No. 49S02-1010-CR-619, the justices agreed with the lower court’s conviction of Lewis. In the five-page opinion, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote that Jonson’s discovery of the gun didn’t constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment or Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Caselaw has held that a search involves an exploratory investigation and opening or looking into areas. There is no search when police look into cars during traffic stops, he wrote. Also, discovering items in plain view is not a search.

Jonson didn’t open any compartments, move any objects, or pull back anything to see the gun, so the officer wasn’t searching the car when he saw the gun.

The justices also upheld Lewis’ sentence, denying the defendant’s request to shorten his sentence.
 

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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.

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