New-crime exception applies in Indiana

June 24, 2015

Tackling an issue of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals applied the new-crime exception under the exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment as well as under the Indiana Constitution.

C.P. challenged his adjudication as a juvenile delinquent for committing what would be Level 6 felony battery against a public-safety official if committed by an adult in C.P. v. State of Indiana 49A02-1411-JV-789. He was at an Indianapolis church festival where off-duty police officer Jeffrey Wood was working security. In order to enforce the festival dress code, he told C.P. to pull up his pants so his underwear would not be showing. The second time he asked C.P. to do so, C.P. muttered something and then yelled an obscenity at Wood. Wood placed his hand on C.P.’s shoulder twice to try to guide him off church grounds. After the second time, C.P. pushed Wood causing him to stumble back.

C.P.’s defense counsel argued Wood illegally seized him so everything that happened after Wood placed his hand on C.P.’s shoulder should be suppressed. The trial court denied the motion.

“Like the many federal and state courts before us, we agree that the purpose of the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule — to deter police misconduct — is not advanced by suppressing evidence of a new crime committed by the defendant after an illegal search or seizure. We therefore hold that notwithstanding a strong causal connection in fact between an illegal search or seizure by law enforcement and a defendant’s response, if the defendant’s response is itself a new and distinct crime, then evidence of the new crime is admissible notwithstanding the prior illegality,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

“Applying this exception to the facts of this case, we conclude that although C.P. was illegally seized when Officer Wood twice put his hand on C.P.’s shoulder to guide him off church property, C.P. committed a new and distinct crime against Officer Wood when he battered him. Accordingly, the juvenile court properly admitted evidence of C.P.’s commission of battery against Officer Wood.”

In addition, the COA also disagreed with the court decision in Trotter v. State, 933 N.E.2d 572, 582 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), that evidence of new and distinct crimes committed by a defendant in response to an illegal search or seizure by law enforcement is inadmissible under the Indiana Constitution.

“Although in some cases the Indiana Constitution ‘confers greater protections to individual rights than the Fourth Amendment affords,’ the Indiana Constitution does not compel a different result here. We find the rationale that the other federal and state courts have cited in applying the new-crime exception to the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule equally applicable to the Indiana Constitution,” Vaidik wrote.



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