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Officer safety justified opening ajar car door

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The opening of an ajar car door by a police officer during a foot chase with a suspected robber didn't violate the man's federal or state constitutional rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

In Joshua P. Lindsey v. State of Indiana, No. 29A02-0902-CR-196, the appellate court determined that the exigent circumstance of officer safety justified Officer Charles Kruse's opening wider Joshua Lindsey's car door and visually inspecting the interior to make sure no one else was in the car. Lindsey left the driver's side door slightly ajar.

Kruse saw Lindsey run into a CVS, brandish a weapon, and then quickly leave the store running in the direction of his car. A thorough search of the car wasn't performed until a search warrant was obtained and Lindsey was in custody. He moved to suppress the evidence found in the car, claiming Kruse's actions violated his constitutional rights. The trial court denied his motion.

"Officer Kruse merely opened wider a door that was already ajar to look inside the car based on a reasonable belief that an armed accomplice might be inside. Any expectation of privacy Lindsey had in his car was surely reduced when he parked his car in a public lot with the door ajar and the key in the ignition," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

The officer's actions were also reasonable under the Indiana Constitution, based on Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 359 (Ind. 2005). Kruse had a high degree of suspicion that Lindsey had just violated the law because he saw Lindsey go into the CVS with a weapon. The degree of intrusion of his quick inspection of the car was minimal and he performed the search based on law enforcement safety, wrote the judge.

Lindsey also challenged the removal of juror No. 37 for cause, and in denying his Baston challenge to the state's preemptory strike of juror No. 10. The jurors in question and Lindsey are African-American.

The trial court didn't err in striking juror No. 37 because he answered it would be hard for him to be fair and impartial to the state because of past experiences he had with police, the appellate court concluded. The trial court also didn't err in denying Lindsey's Baston challenge because the state proved it removed juror No. 10 for race-neutral reasons. In addition, juror No. 5, who is also African-American, was struck by Lindsey.

The Court of Appeals also affirmed Lindsey's aggregate 70-year sentence for robbery, criminal confinement, resisting law enforcement, and adjudication as a habitual offender.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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