Appellate court partially reverses delinquent gun adjudications

January 31, 2018

A teenager adjudicated as a delinquent on two handgun-related charges will have one of those adjudications reversed after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined the true findings violated double jeopardy principles.

In J.G. v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1706-JV-1419, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officers received a dispatch about suspicious persons outside a Mexican restaurant on North High School Road. When officers arrived, the owner told them two black men wearing black jackets had run behind the strip mall where the restaurant was located.

The suspects, later identified as J.G. and O.D., were found at the nearby Gateway apartments, stopped at gunpoint and eventually handcuffed. Though the officers determined the juveniles’ conduct did not rise to the level of a robbery, O.D. pointed them to the location of a loaded semiautomatic handgun hidden in a bush outside of the apartments.

J.G. then told the officers he had not touched the gun, but O.D.’s mother said she heard J.G. tell her son that he had a gun as they were leaving O.D.’s house. J.G. eventually admitted to possessing the gun, claiming he had found it several hours earlier and that O.D. had thrown it under the bush when police arrived.

Thus, the state alleged J.G. had committed dangerous possession of a firearm and carrying a handgun without a license, both Class A misdemeanors if committed by an adult. During the ensuring trial, the handgun and a police recording of J.G.’s conversations with officers at the apartment complex were admitted over J.G.’s objections, and the Marion Superior Court entered true findings against him on both counts.

But the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld only the dangerous possession of a firearm adjudication on Wednesday, with Judge Terry Crone first rejecting J.G.’s argument that his detention violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

Under the circumstances of this case – including the fact that two suspicious males had been reported in a high crime area and had fled when officers arrived – suggested J.G. and O.D. were casing the restaurant for robbery, Crone wrote. Thus, it was reasonable for the officers to hold the juveniles at gunpoint and handcuff them while they were being investigated. Similarly, J.G.’s detention did not violate Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, Crone said, because each of the factors under the test in Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356 (Ind. 2005) weighed in the officers’ favor.

Further, the appellate court determined J.G.’s incriminating statements to the officers were voluntary, considering there was no evidence he was pressured or coerced into confessing to possessing the gun. Additionally, with regard to the audio recording of J.G.’s conversation with police, the appellate court credited the trial court’s statement at trial that it would disregard any inadmissible hearsay statements in the recording.

However, the Court of Appeals remanded the case with instructions to vacate the true finding on the carrying a handgun without a license adjudication, determining it violated double jeopardy protections.  


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