`

COA upholds admission of marijuana found in home

May 2, 2018

A multi-count drug trial against an Indianapolis man will continue with evidence obtained from a search of the man’s home after the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled there was probable cause to issue for a search warrant.

In Christopher Darring v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1706-CR-1426, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Office Dwayne May was dispatched to a home along West 61st Street after Christopher Darring reported his neighbor, Jason Holland, was drunk and trying to start a fight. May was dispatched to the scene again the next day when Holland called 911 to report that Darring had shot at the ground near his feet, and the bullet ricocheted and hit Holland’s leg.

May immediately noticed the odor of marijuana when he arrived and believed the smell was coming from Darring’s house. Other IMPD officers who responded to the scene also noticed the odor and found potted marijuana plants on the property.

May then called for a narcotics detective to investigate a possible marijuana grow operation, and the responding officer, Sergeant Stephan Crooke, obtained a search warrant for the premises based on the strong smell. The subsequent search of the property uncovered 15 pounds of marijuana, as well as cocaine, pills and other drugs and paraphernalia.  

Thus, Darring was charged with five drug offenses and one count of criminal recklessness related to the shooting. Darring moved to suppress the evidence found in his home, arguing Crooke’s affidavit left out the facts that May smelled marijuana along the fence line Darring shared with Holland and that May could smell the marijuana throughout the neighborhood, creating the false impression that the smell was only coming from the house.

But the Marion Superior Court disagreed and denied the suppression motion, prompting the instant interlocutory appeal. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling Wednesday, with Judge Robert Altice writing that though there were some inaccuracies in the affidavit — such as Crooke’s assertion that May initially spoke with Darring on his porch, rather than 20 feet from the door — the mistake was due to a misunderstanding, not reckless disregard for the truth.

Similarly, Altice said Darring failed to establish Crooke made the factual omissions deliberately or with reckless disregard. Instead, he merely noted the omissions existed.

“The fact that there were other sources of the odor does not negate the fact that both Officer May and Sergeant Crooke smelled the odor of raw marijuana coming from inside the house,” Altice wrote. “In particular, Sergeant Crooke averred that he knocked on the door, observed cameras outside of the home, and could smell the odor of raw marijuana. Sergeant Crooke went on to state in the affidavit that based on his training and experience, he immediately knew that the odor inside the residence was raw marijuana.”

“In sum, even if all of this omitted evidence had been included in the affidavit, probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant would still exist,” Altice continued. “Accordingly, the trial court properly denied Darring’s motion to suppress evidence discovered as a result of the search.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Recent Articles by Olivia Covington