COA upholds admission of evidence from challenged pat-down search

A police officer was justified in conducting a search of Christian Jamar Triblet after seeing a bulge on the right side of his pants that was larger than a mobile phone, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, affirming a lower court ruling denying Triblet’s motion to suppress evidence.

Triblet had argued that the search was not founded on “reasonable suspicion” and thus violated the Indiana and United States constitutions. The search turned up a firearm, and Triblet was charged with Level 4 felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

The search occurred after Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Detective Trooper Nathaniel Raney pulled over a vehicle with expired license plates in a high-crime area of Indianapolis. Triblet was the driver, and there were two passengers.

Officers checked their three IDs and found Triblet had previously been charged with robbery. In addition, one passenger had an open warrant for a parole violation for robbery, and the other had been charged with possessing a handgun without a license.

Raney said he spotted the bulge in Triblet’s pants as he was getting out of the vehicle, and he noticed Triblet was pinning that side of his body against the car in what he believed was an effort to conceal the bulge.

Raney saw this as a “red flag” and conducted a pat-down, which turned up the firearm. Triblet argued the events fell short of supporting the reasonable suspicion needed to conduct the search.

“The trial court decided to avoid the issue of whether Trooper Raney was justified in relying on a criminal history search, concluding that Trooper Raney had articulable facts to believe that Triblet was armed and dangerous, even without considering the criminal history search. We agree with this conclusion … ,” Chief Judge Cale Bradford wrote, joined by Judges James Kirsch and Melissa May.

The case is Christian Triblet v. State of Indiana20A-CR-1686.

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