COA reverses suppression of evidence from home search

An appellate panel has reversed a trial court’s order to suppress evidence found in his home during a community corrections compliance check, concluding that law enforcement did not need reasonable suspicion to search his residence.

While Jarrel Ellis was serving home detention for his conviction of Class B felony dealing in cocaine, Ellis’ case manager became suspicious about his compliance and requested that a check be made at Ellis’ home.

Pursuant to his Community Corrections placement, Ellis signed a Marion County Community Corrections Contract that stated he waived his right “against search and seizure, and shall permit MCCC staff, or any law enforcement officer acting on MCCC’s behalf, to search your person, residence, motor vehicle, or any location where your personal property may be found, to insure compliance with the requirements of community corrections.”

When law enforcement performed the compliance check, they found a substance they believed to be marijuana and several bundles of cash. The officers then secured a search warrant that later revealed several weapons, a substance believed to be cocaine, paraphernalia consistent with drug dealing, digital scales and a large amount of cash.

Ellis was again charged, but was orally granted his motion to suppress the evidence seized during the search of his home. The Marion Superior Court had found that the Community Corrections Contract did not include a waiver of searches without reasonable suspicion, prompting the state to appeal, arguing that the trial court improperly granted Ellis’ motion.

Reversing the trial court in a Monday decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that the language in Ellis’ waiver provision was “almost identical” to the waiver provision in Hodges v. State, 54 N.E.3d 1055 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016).

“As in Hodges, we conclude that this language was sufficient to waive Ellis’ rights against search and seizure and to authorize a suspicionless search. Accordingly, the officers did not need reasonable suspicion to search Ellis’ residence,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote for the appellate court.

It further declined to agree with Ellis’ attempts to distinguish Hodges based on Jarman v. State, 114 N.E.3d 911 (Ind. Ct. App. 2018), trans. denied, citing its disagreement with the reasoning and outcome of that case.

“The language of the community corrections agreement in Jarman waived any requirement for a warrant, and the agreement was not required to specifically mention a waiver of ‘reasonable suspicion.’ Moreover, even if the reasoning in Jarman is correct, we do not find Jarman applicable here,” the appellate court wrote.

Jarman held that the second sentence in Jarman’s contract limited the scope of the waiver to exclude suspicionless searches; whereas Ellis’ Contract does not contain comparable limiting language. Accordingly, Ellis’ reliance upon Jarman is misplaced.”

As such, the appellate court concluded that the trial court’s decision to grant Ellis’ motion to suppress was erroneous. It therefore reversed and remanded to the trial court to enter an order consistent with its opinion in State of Indiana v. Jarrel Luke Ellis, 20A-CR-61.  

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