COA: Search under probation did not violate Fourth Amendment

May 18, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals found a warrantless search of property did not violate a man’s Fourth Amendment and Indiana Constitutional rights and upheld the denial of his motion to suppress evidence after he was convicted of two methamphetamine counts.

Lonny Hodges was on probation when officers began receiving tips from several sources that he was making meth. Hodges’ probation officer and another trooper met with Hodges and afterward investigated his home, without a warrant. They found many chemicals used to make meth, as well as some crystal-like white powder that looked like meth. He was charged with class C felony possessing chemical reagents or precursors with intent to manufacture a controlled substance, and class D felony possession of methamphetamine.

Hodges filed a motion to suppress, saying the warrantless search violated his Fourth Amendment and Indiana Constitutional rights, and the trial court denied it. The trial court granted this interlocutory appeal.

Hodges claimed the warrantless search violated the Indiana Constitution because the officer did not have reasonable suspicion, but in an opinion written by Judge Terry Crone, the COA said otherwise. Crone cited State v. Vanderkolk, an Indiana Supreme Court decision that ruled people on probation, when notified of the rules of their probation, are subject to warrantless searches. Because of this broad ruling, Crone wrote reasonable suspicion was not needed for the search.

A provision in Hodges’ probation agreement did warn that Hodges would be subject to warrantless search and seizures, but Hodges argued it did not inform him he was waiving his Indiana Constitutional rights and did not go far enough. However, Hodges signed the agreement, indicating he was aware of his rights. Also, the language specifically said he was “waiving his rights to search and seizure.”

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred in a separate opinion. She said while she agreed in this case that Hodges’ appeal should be denied, she didn’t think Vanderkolk applied to all circumstances and she thought there could be circumstances where a prisoner could file a reasonable suspicion challenge. In this case, she thought the officer had reasonable suspicion to search the home, but she didn’t think this could be true in every case.

The case is Lonny Hodges v State of Indiana, 43A03-1507-CR-843.



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