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Police allowed to test seized shoe without warrant

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The Indiana Supreme Court held Wednesday that police do not need to have a warrant before testing lawfully seized evidence, even if that evidence is unrelated to the crime for which the defendant is in custody.

Douglas A. Guilmette argued that the trial court should have granted his motion to suppress the DNA evidence of Greg Piechocki found in blood in Guilmette’s shoe. Guilmette stole Piechocki’s car keys and cash while Piechocki was asleep in their co-worker’s house and Guilmette drove to Wal-Mart and Meijer, where he stole several items. He returned the car and left around 7 a.m. The co-worker discovered Piechocki’s body that afternoon, and it was determined Piechocki died from injuries suffered from being hit by a baseball bat.

Police questioned Guilmette and arrested him on two counts of theft after he admitted to taking the keys and money from Piechocki. They seized his clothes in accordance with standard booking protocol. After discovering what appeared to be blood on his shoe, police had it tested, which revealed Piechocki’s DNA. Guilmette was then also charged with murder and being a habitual offender. He was convicted as charged and sentenced to 92 years in prison.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, although the panel believed the DNA should not have been admitted, but was a harmless error. In Douglas A. Guilmette v. State of Indiana, 71S04-1310-CR-705, the justices also affirmed in a decision authored by Justice Mark Massa.

Guilmette argued the evidence’s admission violated Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution because he was arrested for theft, but then his shoe was seized to search for evidence of his involvement in the murder. He argued the DNA test was not a valid search incident to arrest, and the police should have had a warrant before performing it.

This is a question of first impression under the state constitution, but the admissibility of that same evidence under the Fourth Amendment is well-established, Massa pointed out.

“And we see no reason to reach a different result under our own state constitution. Police had a justifiably strong suspicion that Guilmette had murdered Piechocki; Guilmette lied about his activities during the relevant time period, stole Piechocki’s money and keys, and had what appeared to be (and in fact was) blood on his shoe. The intrusion on Guilmette’s ordinary activities was minimal, as officers routinely seize an arrestee’s personal effects, including clothing, as part of the booking procedure. Finally, although there was no exigency requiring immediate testing of the blood on the shoe, it would be extremely cumbersome to require law enforcement to take the ‘belt-and-suspenders’ approach of applying for an independent warrant anytime they wish to examine or test a piece of evidence they have already lawfully seized,” he wrote.

It also does not matter that the test revealed evidence of a different crime from that for which he was arrested, the justices held. They summarily affirmed the Court of Appeals decision on all other matters.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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