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COA: Trial court properly admitted drug evidence

May 20, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals held that a trial court acted within its discretion when it admitted evidence found after executing a search warrant of a large quantity of marijuana in a defendant’s backpack, which led to the revocation of the defendant’s probation.

Tiras Johnson was on probation for two separate causes when the state filed a notice he violated his probation. Anderson police officers received reports of possible drug activity at a duplex and knocked on the door. Johnson answered but refused to allow police entry into the home. He said it belonged to Brittany Brooks, who was not home. Officers smelled burnt marijuana, but Johnson claimed he had been smoking Spice. Concerned after hearing movement that may have been coming from inside the duplex, one officer went inside to make sure no one else was present who may harm or destroy evidence. In doing so, the officer saw a marijuana plant in plain view.

Officers obtained a search warrant, which led to the discovery of marijuana in a backpack that Johnson admitted belonged to him.

Johnson sought to suppress the evidence seized during the initial, warrantless search of Brooks’ residence. The trial court denied his motion and ordered him to serve a total of 36 months in the Department of Correction, with credit for 81 days of time served.

In Tiras D. Johnson v. State of Indiana, 48A05-1406-CR-269, the question is whether the police officer had probable cause to make his initial entry into the duplex before he saw marijuana in plain view. Based on the facts in this case – officers smelled burnt marijuana; they believed Johnson was under the influence of marijuana; and the officers had received a tip that illegal drug activity was taking place at the duplex – the COA concluded that the officers had sufficient information to conclude that Johnson had recently smoked marijuana and committed possession of marijuana. Therefore, a fair probability existed that evidence of that crime would be found in Brook’s residence, Judge Paul Mathias wrote.
 

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