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Judge: Inevitable discovery rule could apply under state constitution

September 4, 2014

The Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a man’s convictions stemming from his alleged use of a stolen credit card at a gas station in Hancock County. But the judges on the panel didn’t agree whether the state’s argument of inevitable discovery is allowed under the Indiana Constitution.

Whitestown Police responded to a call about two individuals using a stolen credit card to try to purchase electronic tablets at a truck stop. While searching Lawrence Gyamfi’s car, police found a receipt showing a transaction at a gas station in Greenfield. An officer called the gas station in Hancock County to let it know the transaction may have been made with a stolen credit card.

The credit card used at the gas station was indeed stolen and belonged to a woman in Pennsylvania.

Gyamfi and the other man were arrested and charged in Boone County and investigators later charged Gyamfi with fraud, theft and forgery in connection to the use of the stolen credit card in Hancock County.

But the Boone County charges were later dismissed after the trial court granted Gyamfi’s motion to suppress all evidence taken from him or his car. He sought to have the Hancock County charges dismissed since all of the evidence was derivatively gained as a result of the suppressed search. The Hancock County court only granted his motion to suppress the evidence specifically suppressed by the Boone Superior Court.

In Lawrence Gyamfi v. State of Indiana, 30A01-1311-CR-487, the Court of Appeals found this was an error, as any of the remaining evidence admitted at trial was a result of the information the Boone County officer learned during the illegal search. If not for finding the receipt in the car, Boone County officials likely would not have been tipped off at that time that the transaction at the gas station involved a stolen credit card.

The judges also rejected the state’s claims that the theories of attenuation or inevitable discovery would allow the evidence to survive Gyamfi’s motion.

The majority opinion, authored by Judge Patricia Riley, pointed out that those alternative theories have no place in the jurisprudence of Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution.

Judge Cale Bradford wrote separately that while he agreed that the trial court should not have admitted the contested evidence, he believes the inevitable discovery rule could apply both under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the state constitution.

It could be allowed if the state could demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the challenged evidence would have been discovered but for the unlawful search. But the state failed to do that in this case, he wrote.

Judge Margret Robb concurred with both the majority opinion and with Bradford’s separate opinion.
 

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