The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the denial of a man’s petition for post-conviction relief, in which he claimed his trial counsel was ineffective.
Leondre Woodson argued his attorney should have objected at trial to the admission of evidence related to the search of the rental car Woodson was a passenger in, which failed to preserve the issue for direct appeal. He argued that the continued police detention and investigation beyond writing a traffic ticket violated the Indiana Constitution, and that he didn’t have authority to consent to the search of the car.
Chinedu Onyeji rented a car, and he and Woodson were stopped by police for speeding in Bloomington. When the police officer saw a gun in the glove compartment of the car, he called for backup until he could check to determine if the handgun was stolen. Onyeji had a valid permit for the gun, and both men claimed the car was rented so they could drive to Gary to get a copy of Woodson’s birth certificate. Because Onyeji owned a car and the men appeared nervous, police thought they may be involved in narcotics activity. Onyeji declined to allow police to search the car, but Woodson gave them permission. A gun and drugs were found in the trunk, and Woodson was charged on various drug and weapons counts.
Woodson filed a motion to suppress the evidence in the trunk, which was denied. His attorney did not renew any objection to the evidence at trial. Woodson was convicted of three of the charges. On direct appeal, the possession of cocaine while in the possession of a firearm conviction was vacated, but the 20-year sentence was upheld.
Ruling on his PCR petition, which was denied by the post-conviction court, the Court of Appeals in Leondre Woodson v. State of Indiana, No. 53A01-1109-PC-466, found Woodson didn’t establish that he received ineffective assistance from his attorney. At all points of the traffic stop, police were justified in having at lease a reasonably high degree of concern or suspicion that some kind of criminal activity may be happening, wrote Judge Cale Bradford. The intrusion of the detention before the search was minimal and the need to maintain officer safety was implicated in this case.
The appellate judges also rejected Woodson’s claim that his consent to search the rental car was invalid because he didn’t have actual or apparent authority to give that consent.