COA affirms denial of motion to suppress drug evidence

April 26, 2018

A man found slumped over a steering wheel who later admitted to possessing methamphetamine and marijuana has lost his appeal of the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence against him. The Indiana Court of Appeals found the seizure of the man was constitutionally permissible.

In Scott Randall v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1708-CR-1779, Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Ashley Rose performed a welfare check on a vehicle in the parking lot of a St. Vincent’s Hospital facility after he noticed a man “slumped over” the steering wheel with the driver’s door open. But when Rose approached the vehicle, the man, Scott Randall, exited the vehicle and began quickly walking away.

Rose ordered Randall to return to the car. When Randall obliged, Rose noticed the he was sweating and acting nervously. Rose also saw a folded piece of foil, which he believed indicated narcotic use. Randall eventually admitted to possessing a marijuana pipe, but he refused to exit the vehicle.

Another officer then arrived and pointed a taser at Randall while Rose placed him in a wrist lock, prompting Randall to admit to having meth in the door. Rose then located a white powdery substance, so Randall was retained but not Mirandized. Rose said he did not read Randall his rights because he did not ask him any additional questions.

At his subsequent drug trial, Randall moved to suppress the evidence found in his car, but the Marion Superior Court denied his motion after finding Rose was acting in his community caretaking role. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial on interlocutory appeal Thursday, though not for the same reasons as the trial court.

Turning first to Randall’s challenge of Rose’s community caretaking function, Judge Margret Robb wrote that the trial court relied on the decision in McNeal v. State, 62 N.e.3d 1275 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016) to conclude Rose was acting within that function. But McNeal’s discussion of community caretaking was vacated by McNeal v. State, 76 N.E.3d 136 (Ind. 2017), meaning the trial court erroneously applied the community caretaking function here, Robb said.

However, the appellate court also found Rose had an “objectively reasonable” basis to believe Randall required medical assistance given that he was slumped over the steering wheel. And in the context of Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, Robb said Rose had a high degree of suspicion while imposing a minimum intrusion on Randall. Thus, Randall’s seizure was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment pursuant to the emergency aid exception, and under the Indiana constitution.

Finally, the court concluded Randall’s seizure “was no more custodial than a routine traffic stop,” so his incriminating statements were not made in violation of Miranda.


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