A handgun discarded by a teen after seeing a marked police car – and later picked up by the officer who saw the teen throw the gun into a yard – was properly admitted at his delinquency hearing, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed.
While on patrol, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer John Wallace saw J.B. and three other people walking along the sidewalk. 17-year-old J.B. threw an object into a yard as he continued walking. Wallace believed based on the shape and length of the object that it was a handgun.
After stopping the group, Wallace found the object in the yard. It was a 9-millimeter handgun. The juvenile court found J.B. to be delinquent for committing what would be Class A misdemeanor dangerous possession of a firearm if committed by an adult.
In J.B. v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1409-JV-688, J.B. argued that his federal and constitutional rights were violated when the juvenile court admitted evidence from the officer’s stop of him at the hearing. There was no Fourth Amendment violation, Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote, because abandoned property is not subject to protection under that amendment and may be lawfully seized without a warrant. The officer also had reasonable suspicion to stop the group.
There was also no violation under Article I, Section 11 of the state constitution. Wallace had a high degree of suspicion that J.B. had illegally possessed a firearm, the degree of intrusion was minimal and the extent of law enforcement needs was high because the officer had to confirm whether the item was a handgun and prevent any danger to the public.