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Search of man, car that led to drug arrest constitutional, COA rules

July 18, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Thursday that the search of the man who supplied cocaine to buyers as well as the search of his car did not violate state and federal constitutions.

Howard County police had received an anonymous tip that a Frederick Herron sold cocaine in Kokomo from a white Chrysler Pacifica. Shortly after receiving the tip, Herron appeared to provide cocaine from a vehicle matching that description during two controlled drug buys involving a confidential informant. Police stopped the car after the second drug buy because the car’s windows were tinted too dark.

A pat-down search of Herron found a large amount of money on him, and a drug-sniffing dog indicated the presence of drugs in the car. A search warrant executed by police led to a secret compartment in the car that contained crack cocaine packaged for sale.

Herron was charged with and convicted of two counts of Class A felony dealing in cocaine, one count of Class B felony dealing in cocaine and being a habitual offender. He sought to suppress the evidence collected at the traffic stop, but his motion was denied.

The COA affirmed in Frederick Herron v. State of Indiana, 34A02-1203-CR-224, rejecting Herron’s arguments that the seizure of evidence violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. He claimed that police did not have probable cause to remove him from his car once he was stopped for having tinted windows.

But police did have probable cause, the COA concluded, pointing to the fact that the Pacifica appeared at the first buy location just after the dealer’s call to his supplier and just before the dealer delivered the crack to the confidential informant. The Pacifica arrived at the second buy location and was registered to Herron. Those events demonstrate the original anonymous tip was from a credible source and the information was not stale, Judge Melissa May wrote.

That Herron arrived shortly after the dealer called his supplier, combined with the anonymous tip, gave the police probable cause under the Fourth Amendment to arrest Herron for dealing cocaine, the judges held.

The same facts also support that the stop was reasonable under the state Constitution as well. There was no abuse of discretion in admitting the evidence seized from the Pacifica after the traffic stop.
 

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