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COA: 4th Amendment rights not violated by search of home

August 3, 2018

The Indiana Court of Appeals determined that a man’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated during a search of his residence because law enforcement had ample reason to believe he was at the residence.

Officers arrived at William Stickrod’s residence in December 2016 to execute warrants to arrest him for failing to appear at court hearings in two criminal cases. Upon arrival, Jessica Caliz, Stickrod’s girlfriend, opened the door, and informed officers that Stickrod was not there, but officers heard a “thud” coming from the house’s attached garage. Caliz had previously lied the officers about Stickrod’s whereabouts and found him in his garage, where they found him once again in December 2016.

The officers handcuffed Stickrod and, during a search of his person, discovered a glasses case in a pants pocket that contained a glass pipe and a small plastic bag containing .8 grams of methamphetamine.

Stickrod was subsequently charged with Level 5 and Level 6 felony possession of meth and Class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia. He filed a motion to suppress all evidence that the state obtained after entering the home, but the Tippecanoe Circuit Court denied the motion.

The trial court later imposed a sentence on all three counts and merged the Level 6 felony with the Level 5 felony after Stickrod was convicted at separate jury and bench trials. On appeal, Stickrod argued the officers’ entry into his home violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The appellate court cited Carpenter v. State, 974 N.E.2d 569 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), which found officers did not violate Carpenter’s Fourth Amendment rights by approaching a house and looking in the window when they had a reasonable belief he was inside. The same was true in William P. Stickrod v. State of Indiana, 79A04-1710-CR-2473, the appellate court found, noting the officer had ample reason to believe that Stickrod was present in that house on that night.

The fact that the officer knew Stickrod lived there because he had arrested Stickrod at that address a few weeks prior to the incident at issue, coupled with the purpose of executing arrest the warrant, led to the appellate court’s determination that entry into Stickrod’s house did not violate the Fourth Amendment, so the trial court did not err in admitting evidence the officers discovered on Stickrod’s person after entering the house.

Stickrod next argued the trial court denied his Sixth Amendment right to present a defense by barring Caliz’s testimony, but the appellate panel also rejected that argument. Stickrod’s attorney had informed the judge he believed Caliz would commit perjury on the stand, and “(p)reventing the presentation of perjured testimony on the stand is a legitimate and substantial interest,” Senior Judge Betty Barteau wrote.

But the appellate panel did agree a double jeopardy violation occurred in regard to Stickrod’s Level 5 and Level 6 felonies for possession of meth. It found that the trial court’s merger of the counts at sentencing failed to correct the problem, so the court remanded the case to vacate the Level 6 felony conviction.

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