Motion to suppress properly denied in domestic violence case

Motions to suppress evidence against the defendant in a Gibson County domestic violence case were properly denied, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday, finding the aggressor’s rights were not violated during the initial police response to the domestic violence call.

In Joseph C. Hudson v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2628, Owensville Police Officer Jason Wright received a call that an ex-husband, later identified as Joseph Hudson, was on the scene of a domestic disturbance and possibly had a handgun. Wright arrived and placed Hudson in handcuffs, and Caligaro Sparacino, another person at the scene, said Hudson was at the Owensville home seeking help loading a brake press when he and his ex-wife got into an argument.

Then, according to Sparacino, Hudson’s daughter tried to intervene, but Hudson knocked her down. According to the daughter, Hudson then walked to his truck and retrieved and cocked a gun.

Wright then found an empty holster in the truck and, after reading Hudson his Miranda warnings, Hudson said he retrieved the weapon for his protection. Wright later found the handgun in the truck.

Hudson was then charged with felony intimidation and misdemeanor battery, and he unsuccessfully moved to suppress evidence. In an interlocutory appeal, he argued the initial statements he made to Wright after he was handcuffed should have been suppressed because he should have received his Miranda warnings the moment he was cuffed.

Judge Patricia Riley, writing for a unanimous Indiana Court of Appeals panel, first noted that Hudson was in custody when he was placed in handcuffs and in the backseat of Wright’s patrol car. But Wright’s initial questions to Hudson – what’s going on and where is the gun – did not require a Miranda warning.

“Without more definite information about the presence, location, or ownership of the weapon, Officer Wright conducted ‘[g]eneral on-the-scene questioning as to facts surrounding a crime or other general questioning of citizens in the fact-finding process,’ which does not fall within the purview of Miranda requirements,” Riley wrote. “… It was only after Officer Wright spoke with Hudson’s daughter who confirmed the actual presence of a gun, and the discovery of a holster in Hudson’s truck, that Miranda warnings were implicated prior to questioning Hudson a second time.”

The appellate panel likewise rejected Hudson’s Fourth Amendment argument against the warrantless search of his truck, finding Wright had probable cause. Specifically, based on the statements from Hudson’s daughter confirming the presence of a weapon, “Officer Wright could reasonably conclude that Hudson had committed intimidation and that a search of the readily mobile truck would uncover evidence of a handgun.”

Because of that probable cause, the appellate panel said Hudson’s suppression motion could not stand.

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