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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.