Searches without suspicion are not unconstitutional, COA affirms

July 10, 2015

A one-month-old decision by the Indiana Supreme Court upended a probationer’s argument that the search of his nightstand was unconstitutional.

Braeden Terrell was arrested after probation officers found he had alcohol, illegal drugs and a firearm when they searched his Martinsville residence. He was subsequently charged with marijuana possession, a Class B misdemeanor, and paraphernalia possession, a Class A misdemeanor.

At trial, the Morgan Circuit Court did not allow the marijuana and paraphernalia that officers seized from the nightstand to be admitted as evidence. The court agreed with Terrell that the search violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution because it was made without any suspicion and was simply investigatory.

On appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in State of Indiana v. Braeden Terrell, 55A01-1501-CR-9.

The appellate court cited the recent decision from the state Supreme Court in Vanderkolk v. State, No. 79S04-1411-CR-718, 2015 WL 3608834 (Ind. June 9, 2015). There the five justices ruled that probationers “unambiguously authorize warrantless and suspicionless searches…” 

Based on the June ruling, the Court of Appeals held Terrell’s argument was no longer a valid objection to the search.

“…unless and until our supreme court limits Vanderkolk or further defines its parameters, we must conclude that where, as here, a probationer has waived any and all of his search and seizure rights and agreed to submit to searches of his property and residence at any time by a probation officer, a nondestructive daytime search of the probationer’s nightstand for firearms is not unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the court.



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