Judges affirm motion to suppress after illegal police entry

An Indiana Court of Appeals judge wrote a separate opinion in an unlawful arrest case, emphasizing that the facts before the court differ from those before the Indiana Supreme Court justices in Barnes v. State.

In State of Indiana v. Gerald Foster, No. 02A03-1010-CR-596, the state appealed the grant of Gerald Foster’s motion to suppress evidence obtained when he was arrested for dealing cocaine three weeks after a controlled drug buy.

Police went to Foster’s apartment to arrest him without a warrant. They awoke Foster and his girlfriend in the middle of the night by pounding on the door, identified themselves as police, and said they were investigating a “911 hang up.” Foster told them they had the wrong apartment, but police insisted they wanted to make sure everything was all right.

When Foster's girlfriend opened the door, the two officers came in and handcuffed Foster. He was read his Miranda rights and taken to the police station. While in the car, Foster made inculpatory statements. He was read his Miranda rights again at the station, signed a waiver of rights form, and made more inculpatory statements. Then police got a warrant for his arrest.

The trial court granted Foster’s motion to suppress, which alleged that the warrantless search violated his protections against illegal search and seizure under the federal and state constitutions. His case was later dismissed without prejudice.

The appellate judges only analyzed Foster’s arrest under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution and found his state constitutional rights had been violated. There was ample amount of time for the officers to have obtained a warrant and no evidence that exigent circumstances called for an immediate arrest. They also concluded that his statements in the officer’s car and at the police station should be suppressed because there is little doubt that Foster’s statements came from the exploitation of the unlawful arrest, wrote Senior Judge William Garrard.

Judge May wrote a separate opinion concurring in result, emphasizing the difference between the facts in Foster’s case and those in Richard Barnes v. State of Indiana, 946 N.E.2d 572 (Ind. 2011), in which the justices addressed illegal home entry by police.

“Barnes was appealing his right to resist in his own home, while Foster is challenging the admissibility of the evidence collected after police allegedly entered his home illegally,” she wrote. “As our Supreme Court did not address the legality of the entry and as Barnes did not argue the suppression of any evidence gleaned from the alleged illegal entry, the decision in Barnes does not control the case before us. Instead, Foster addresses the nature of the relief available when the State violates the Fourth Amendment.”

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