Teen’s rights not violated by search of sweatshirt

A Marion County teen’s constitutional rights were not violated when a police officer responding to a report of a teen in a black hooded sweatshirt with a gun opened a similar sweatshirt next to the teen and found a gun, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday.

In D.F. v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1408-JV-575, D.F. appealed his adjudications as delinquent for what would be Class A misdemeanors dangerous possession of a firearm and carrying a handgun without a license, if committed by an adult. A person in a park approached an officer to report that a black male wearing a black hoodie had a large black gun in the park on the bleachers. Officer Adam Mingerink responded to the dispatch within 30 seconds and saw D.F. on the bleachers taking off a black hoodie. D.F. then began scooting away from it. Mingerink did not see anyone else in the park with a black hoodie. He opened the sweatshirt and found a gun.

D.F. argued that his rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution were violated by the search. But based on the report given to police and the officer’s quick response, Mingerink had reasonable suspicion to investigate whether D.F. had a gun, Judge Melissa May wrote. He therefore did not violate D.F.’s Fourth Amendment rights when he unfolded the sweatshirt and found a gun.

Mingerink had a high degree of suspicion D.F. could have a gun, the intrusion into D.F’s privacy was minimal, and the extent of law enforcement needs was high because police had reason to believe someone had a gun in a public park. Therefore, the officer’s actions did not violate the Indiana Constitution, the COA held.

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