Court affirms denial of PCR for drug offender

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the denial of an Elkhart woman’s petition for post-conviction relief, finding her ineffective assistance of counsel argument cannot prevail under Indiana law.

After a confidential police source participated in two controlled cocaine buys from Latorrea Ware, police used information gathered through the buys to obtain a search warrant for Ware’s Elkhart apartment. Officers, under the initial guise of being maintenance workers, were then able to enter Ware’s apartment and discovered cocaine and money used in the controlled buys.

Ware was convicted of Class A felony dealing in cocaine, two counts of Class B felony dealing in cocaine and Class D felony maintaining a common nuisance. She filed a direct appeal, arguing the trial court had committed fundamental error in admitting the evidence seized during the execution of the warrant, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed her convictions in Ware v. State, No. 20A03-1401-CR-18, 2014 WL 4116469 at 1 (Ind. Ct. App. Aug. 21, 2014).

Ware then moved for post-conviction relief, asserting that had her trial counsel moved to suppress the evidence, the motion would have been successful under Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The post-conviction court rejected Ware’s ineffective assistance of counsel argument, prompting her current appeal in Latorrea Denise Ware v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1610-PC-2297.

Ware repeated her ineffective assistance of trial counsel argument on appeal, but in a Wednesday opinion, Judge Edward Najam wrote the appellate panel disagreed with the contention that had her counsel objected to the admission of the evidence, the motion would have been successful.

Under a Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 359 (Ind. 2005) test, the officers’ conduct was reasonable when they executed the search warrant against Ware’s apartment because their degree of concern was substantial, their degree of intrusion was minimal and the extent of law enforcement needs was high, Najam wrote. Further, the appellate court rejected the argument the Article 1, Section 11 “knock-and-announce” rule “may only be disposed of ‘when exigent circumstances exist.’”

“To be sure, Indiana’s case law frequently discusses the disposal of that rule in those circumstances, but the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinion in (Lacey v. State, 946 N.E.2d 548, 550 (Ind. 2011)) could not be more clear: the ultimate question under Article 1, Section 11 is the reasonableness of the police action under the totality of the circumstances,” Najam wrote.

Because the officers’ actions were reasonable, the appellate panel affirmed the denial of Ware’s petition for post-conviction relief.

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