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Man loses appeal over search that led to cocaine charges

July 26, 2016

A man on trial for Class A felony counts of dealing cocaine and conspiracy to deal cocaine lost his appeal Tuesday seeking to suppress evidence found in a search of his car.

Evansville police received tips that Clayton Doctor had traveled to Dallas to have a “hydraulic trap” installed in his Acura, and that he was moving large quantities of cocaine from Atlanta to Evansville. Based on this, an officer got federal court authorization to place a GPS tracking device on Doctor’s car. Five days later, the car was in Atlanta and stayed there for five days.

As the car returned to Evansville, police who had set up surveillance points pulled over Doctor for a window-tint violation. With the aid of a drug-sniffing K-9 who identified narcotics in the car, the officers obtained a warrant and searched the car, finding a hydraulic trap in the front passenger-side airbag. The secret compartment held two heat-sealed bags of cocaine.

Doctor claims in his appeal that the window-tint violation was pretextual and violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

“Even though the officers took the additional step of obtaining a warrant prior to searching the vehicle, they would have been justified in conducting the search based on K-9 Willy’s positive indications alone,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the panel in Clayton Doctor v. State of Indiana, 82A01-1507-CR-844. “Therefore, we conclude that the traffic stop did not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment.”

Likewise, the stop did not violate Doctor’s protection under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, the panel held.

The COA also denied the state’s motion to dismiss Doctor’s interlocutory appeal as untimely and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

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