No constitutional violations at man’s drug trial, COA rules

A Warrick County man who claimed multiple constitutional violations prejudiced him at his trial for drug crimes failed to prove those violations, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided Thursday.

In December 2013, Indiana State Trooper Matthew Lockridge and Warrick County Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrett Busing were dispatched to Luke Warren’s mobile home after receiving a tip about methamphetamine being manufactured there. After several knocks on the door went unanswered, Warren finally appeared and told officers that he had an issue with his neighbors leaving their “meth trash” on his property.

When Warren indicated that his mother, Diana, owned the property, she came to the scene and both she and her son signed consents to search the home. When officers found a few items related to meth use and manufacturing, Warren questioned the consent form he had signed, so the officers stopped their search and instead obtained a search warrant.

The state then charged Warren with Class B felony dealing in meth, Class D felony possession of chemical reagents or precursors with the intent to manufacture a controlled substance and alleged that he was a habitual substance offender. Warren filed a motion to suppress, arguing that his consent to search was not properly given, but the trial court denied his motion.

Warren was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to seven years in prison. He filed a motion to correct error, arguing that his right to counsel was violated when his privately retained counsel represented both Warren and his co-defendant, Melody Corsentino, his live-in girlfriend, in separate trials. The trial court also denied that motion.

On appeal in Luke M. Warren v. State of Indiana, 87A01-1606-CR-1399, Warren first argued that evidence was admitted at trial in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, specifically contending that when he did not initially answer the door, the officers were required to leave the property. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected that argument, with Judge Robert Altice writing in a unanimous opinion that aside from knocking on Warren’s door, the officers also testified they smelled chemicals commonly associated with meth and saw items associated with meth manufacturing, such as a burn pile, on the property.

“Deputy Busing and Trooper Lockridge had reasonable suspicion to broaden their investigation once they smelled the chemical odor, known to be associated with the manufacturing of methamphetamine, and observed precursors on the burn pile,” Altice wrote. “At a minimum, given the volatile nature of such an environment, they were permitted to intensify their knocking and announcing to determine whether there were occupants at risk inside the home.”

Warren further argued that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was denied when his trial attorney also represented Corsentino in a separate trial, though he did not object to the dual representation at trial. But Warren presented no evidence in the record to establish a conflict of interest that adversely affected his counsel’s performance, Altice wrote.  Thus, his Sixth Amendment rights were not violated, the appellate court found.

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