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Police following drug package wire into home unconstitutional, COA rules

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Police violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure when they used a parcel wire to track the opening of a shipment of marijuana in an Indianapolis man’s home, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday.

There were no exigent circumstances excepting the warrant requirement, the panel ruled, upholding the Marion Superior Court’s grant of a motion to suppress evidence. The state appealed that ruling, and the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed in State of Indiana v. Gregory Lagrone, 49A05-1203-CR-135.

Lagrone was charged with Class D felony counts of dealing marijuana and possession of marijuana after police intercepted a package of marijuana shipped to a hotel in northwest Indianapolis, placed a GPS device and a “parcel wire” into the package, and called Lagrone to pick it up.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers followed Lagrone after he picked up the package and waited for a signal from the parcel wire that would be triggered when the package was opened and exposed to light.

When police received a signal the package was open, they knocked on the door and announced themselves as police, but no one answered. They forcibly entered the home, secured it and then requested and obtained a warrant. The trial court granted Lagrone’s motion to suppress evidence recovered from the search.

“We conclude that the warrantless use of the parcel wire to monitor the package within Lagrone’s house violated the Fourth Amendment,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the panel. “Due to that violation … the State cannot justify its warrantless intrusion into Lagrone’s home under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment.”

The ruling did not place restrictions on the use of GPS systems and parcel wires as investigatory tools, however.

“In sum, we conclude that the installation of the GPS device and the parcel wire into the package Lagrone picked up from the hotel did not violate the Fourth Amendment because any privacy interest Lagrone had in the package was lost when UPS opened the package,” Najam wrote. “Nor did the police monitoring of the GPS device to track the package en route to Lagrone’s home violate the Fourth Amendment, because officers also tracked Lagrone on the highway visually. Moreover, the evidence presented does not show that the GPS monitoring continued after Lagrone carried the package into his home.

“But the police then monitored the package without a warrant via the parcel wire after the package was inside Lagrone’s home. The information obtained from that device, namely, that the package had been opened, could not have been observed from outside the home. As such, the receipt of that information via the parcel wire without a warrant violated Lagrone’s Fourth Amendment rights.”






 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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