A southern Indiana trial court rightly suppressed drug evidence gathered after a police drug-sniffing dog indicated the presence of meth in a van after a traffic stop.
Cannelton police Officer Micah Jackson followed a van driven by Molly Gray for some time after it failed to signal a turn, and the officer pulled over the van around 3 a.m. on Aug. 13, 2012. A short time later, Jackson had his canine conduct a free-air sniff around the van, which led to the discovery of a plastic baggie containing methamphetamine beneath a floorboard and a Class D felony meth possession charge against Gray.
Jackson later testified that he’d received information from an officer from Tell City that the driver was involved in illegal narcotics, but Jackson had no knowledge of specifics or the source of the information.
The opinion notes Jackson didn’t report Gray’s information to dispatch before starting the canine’s free-air sniff because Gray’s sister is a Tell City police dispatcher and Gray’s brother-in-law is a Perry County sheriff’s deputy, and Jackson testified he feared they might interfere in the investigation.
Gray succeeded in convincing Perry Circuit Judge Karen Werner to suppress the evidence, and the Court of Appeals affirmed on interlocutory appeal in State of Indiana v. Molly Gray, 62A01-1303-CR-108. The court treated the information Jackson acted on as an anonymous tip insufficient for reasonable suspicion.
“Without addressing the validity of the initial stop, we conclude that the free-air canine sniff was not conducted incidental to the traffic stop and so required reasonable suspicion to justify increasing the duration of the stop,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in the opinion joined by Judges Mark Bailey and Melissa May.
“Finding that Officer Jackson lacked reasonable suspicion, we hold that the seizure was a violation of the Fourth Amendment and that the trial court did not err in suppressing the evidence.”