Justices rule on in-state, out-of-state police actions

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The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld its own law enforcement practices, but leaves those of Alabama's police and judiciary out in the cold.

Justices issued a unanimous decision today in David A. Shotts v. State of Indiana, No. 71S03-0905-CR-253, which comes from St. Joseph Superior Judge John Marnocha's court. The case stems from a felony arrest warrant for Shotts on theft and murder charges in Alabama. An Alabama sheriff's deputy called a St. Joseph County detective about Shotts residing in Mishawaka. The Indiana officer confirmed and verified the active arrest warrant through the National Crime Information Computer, and began the process for preparing an Indiana warrant. Shotts was arrested with a handgun, which police later determined he didn't have a license for. Shotts was charged with misdemeanor possession of an unlicensed firearm and felony possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. During the trial process, Shotts filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the evidence of his handgun possession, arguing that Indiana officers arrested him without "any warrant or legal authority" and the subsequent search was the product of an arrest violating his Fourth Amendment rights and Article 1, §11 of the Indiana Constitution.

The judge denied that motion and convicted him, but the Indiana Court of Appeals in March 2009 reversed that decision and found that Indiana's good-faith exception for police was inapplicable because the Alabama officer who obtained the warrant did so on a facially defective affidavit.

But the state's justices disagreed, upholding the Indiana police practice in this case and finding the evidence for possession of a handgun admissible for this Indiana prosecution.

Justices found little direct authority on the issue about evaluating a receiving state's arrest based on another state's warrant, but they relied in part on the well-settled law for extradition proceedings - that the receiving state is not to review the probable cause determination of the demanding state. Indiana's justices also found that rationale logically follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in Herring v. United States, 129 S. Ct. 695, 698 (2009), which addressed when the exclusionary rule applies on Fourth Amendment claims.

"The trial court found that Indiana officers acted in good-faith reliance on a warrant they reasonably presumed to be valid," Indiana Justice Theodore Boehm wrote for the court. "In sum, Shotts does not identify anything that the Indiana officers did as culpable at all, much less rising to the level of culpable behavior the exclusionary rule seeks to deter. Indeed, letting an armed fugitive remain at large while they attempted to take other steps to review the Alabama proceedings is objectively unreasonable."

On the state constitutional claims, the Indiana justices made similar findings using its own precedent from Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 359 (Ind. 2005), which sets the standard for determining a seizure's reasonableness and in some cases provides more protections to individual rights than the Fourth Amendment offers. The state justices declined to address whether Alabama did anything right or wrong in its own execution of the Shotts case and warrant.

"Under the Indiana Constitution, we need not resolve these issues today," Justice Boehm wrote. "If any flaw existed in the Alabama warrants, it was the product of an agency - whether Alabama law enforcement or Alabama judiciary - over which Indiana police have no control."

Justice Frank Sullivan wrote a concurring opinion that pointed out he affirms Shotts' conviction but wouldn't have turned to the SCOTUS ruling in Herring in making a final decision.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.