COA affirms seizure of gun from apartment without search warrant

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a man’s misdemeanor handgun charge after finding the police did not need a search warrant to retrieve the gun after the man placed it inside an apartment in view of the officers.

Police responded to a report of an armed man pointing a gun at a woman and who was driving a white Bonneville. Police saw a similar car parked near an apartment complex entrance. They saw Georon Harris, who matched the description given by the caller, sitting outside an apartment. Police also saw him stand up, remove a handgun from his waistband, open the door of the apartment, place it on the floor inside, close the door and sit down again. The officers handcuffed Harris, opened the door, and retrieved the gun.

Harris was charged and convicted of Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license. He claimed the handgun shouldn’t have been admitted as evidence because its admission violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution.

Regarding his Fourth Amendment claims, the COA found Tuesday that exigent circumstances in this case justified the officer’s seizure of the gun without a warrant. The officers didn’t know who was in the apartment and if anyone would have access to it. And the judges found regarding the Indiana Constitution claim that the seizure of the handgun was reasonable. The degree of suspicion that a violation had occurred was high, the degree of intrusion was slight and the needs of law enforcement to secure the handgun were great.

The case is Georon Harris v. State of Indiana, 02A03-1402-CR-73.

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