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Man to get new trial on meth, marijuana charges

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An Elkhart man is entitled to a new trial on drug charges after the Indiana Court of Appeals found the police failed to “scrupulously honor” his right to remain silent.

Efren Mendoza-Vargas was charged and convicted of Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine, Class D felony maintaining a common nuisance and Class D felony possession of marijuana. The Elkhart County Interdiction and Covert Enforcement team executed a warrant at the home where Mendoza-Vargas lived. He was handcuffed while police searched the home. They found large amounts of money, methamphetamine and marijuana.

ICE employee Jennifer Gomez, who is fluent in English and Spanish, read Mendoza-Vargas his Miranda rights in Spanish. He said he understood these rights. He shook his head “no” as to whether he wanted to answer questions. But police kept asking him questions, even one about rubber bands found in the house. He was given a few minutes to decide whether he wanted to answer questions.

After 10 minutes, an officer asked Mendoza-Vargas if he could ask a question, then asked if his “contact” was in Indiana. Mendoza-Vargas then explained he got the drugs from Mexico.

Instead of immediately ceasing any questions after Mendoza-Vargas indicated he didn’t want to talk, police kept questioning him. And officers never re-read Mendoza-Vargas his Miranda rights again after he began answering questions, Judge Paul Mathias wrote.

The trial court abused its discretion when it admitted his statements to police into evidence because police “failed to scrupulously honor Mendoza-Vargas’s right to remain silent,” the judges held in Efren Mendoza-Vargas v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1201-CR-27.

This was not a harmless error, but he may be retired without the admittance of the statements to police.

 

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  1. He did not have an "unlicensed handgun" in his pocket. Firearms are not licensed in Indiana. He apparently possessed a handgun without a license to carry, but it's not the handgun that is licensed (or registered).

  2. Once again, Indiana's legislature proves how friendly it is to monopolies. This latest bill by Hershman demonstrates the lengths Indiana's representatives are willing to go to put big business's (especially utilities') interests above those of everyday working people. Maassal argues that if the technology (solar) is so good, it will be able to compete on its own. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the industries he represents. Instead, he wants to cut the small credit consumers get for using solar in order to "add a 'level of certainty'" to his industry. I haven't heard of or seen such a blatant money-grab by an industry since the days when our federal, state, and local governments were run by the railroad. Senator Hershman's constituents should remember this bill the next time he runs for office, and they should penalize him accordingly.

  3. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  4. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  5. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

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