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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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