COA: Volunteered evidence shouldn’t be suppressed despite officer’s Miranda violation

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The Court of Appeals of Indiana has reversed an order to suppress drug evidence found after a Miranda violation, finding state and federal constitutions don’t require suppression of the physical fruits of evidence obtained through the violation after the suspect volunteered the information.

In March 2019, officer Paul Hutchinson of the Richmond Police Department observed Tala Jones driving on Main Street in Richmond. Hutchinson had stopped Jones several times before and knew that her driver’s license was suspended.

Hutchinson initiated a traffic stop, asked Jones for her driver’s license and confronted her about the suspension. The officer then returned to his cruiser and, after once again confirming that Jones’ license was suspended, requested that a tow truck be sent to the location of the traffic stop.

After telling Jones her vehicle was being towed and asking her to exit the car, Hutchinson asked her if there was anything in the vehicle. Jones replied there was marijuana in the vehicle, and after officers spotted it, they took the substance and handcuffed Jones.

Hutchinson then asked Jones if there was anything else in the car. Jones replied that she had a gun on her person, and when asked where it was, she informed the officer that the firearm was in her bra strap. Hutchinson then removed a handgun from Jones’ bra strap.

Hutchinson then again asked Jones if she had anything else on her person, and she replied that she had heroin and crack cocaine hidden on the other side of her bra. Hutchinson removed the suspected heroin and crack cocaine from Jones’ bra strap.

After seizing the drugs and gun, Hutchinson read Jones her Miranda rights.

Jones was eventually charged with Level 3 felony dealing in a narcotic drug, Level 3 felony dealing in cocaine and Class A misdemeanor counts of carrying a handgun without a license and dealing in marijuana.

She filed a motion to suppress, arguing that neither Hutchinson’s decision to tow her vehicle nor the inventory search of the vehicle that netted the marijuana had been done pursuant to an established RPD policy or procedure. She also argued that the suspected marijuana, heroin and crack cocaine, as well as the handgun, were the fruit of the poisonous tree of Jones’ statements made before she had received her Miranda advisements.

The Wayne Superior Court partially granted her motion to suppress, ruling that Hutchinson had validly decided to tow Jones’ vehicle pursuant to his community caretaking function; that Jones was in custody after she admitted there was marijuana in her vehicle but that she had then volunteered the information that she had a gun in her bra; that the suspected drugs in her bra had been discovered as a direct result of a Miranda violation; and that the Indiana Constitution required suppression of the suspected drugs found in Jones’ bra.

The result of the rulings was that the trial court suppressed Jones’ statement that she had drugs in her bra, but it did not suppress her statement that there was marijuana in the car, or the suspected marijuana found in the car.

The state filed a motion to reconsider, which was denied.

Upon review, the Court of Appeals found that because Jones’ statements were voluntary, even though the heroin and cocaine located in her bra were found after she gave statements in violation of Miranda, the physical evidence was not subject to suppression under the Fifth Amendment.

The COA also dismissed Jones’ arguments that her rights under Article 1, Section 14 of the Indiana Constitution were violated, particularly her citation to Callender v. State, 138 N.E. 817 (Ind. 1922).

“Having examined the text of Section 14, its purpose, and the relevant Indiana case law, we conclude that it is most appropriate under the Indiana Constitution to conclude that physical evidence must not be excluded from trial if it was procured from a violation of the Section 14 privilege against self-incrimination,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

On cross-appeal, Jones challenged the trial court’s conclusion that her car was properly searched and that, therefore, the marijuana found there did not need to be suppressed.

The COA wasn’t convinced.

“Jones’ admission to Officer Hutchinson that there was marijuana in her car provided the officer with probable cause to search the vehicle,” Riley wrote, citing Gibson v. State, 733 N.E.2d 945, 952 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000). “After Jones informed the officer there was marijuana in her car, establishing probable cause to search, it became immaterial that the officer had originally intended to conduct an inventory search.

“Jones’ car was mobile, as evinced by the fact that she had been observed driving it, and she was stopped on a public street,” Riley continued. “There was no violation of Jones’ Fourth Amendment right resulting from the search of her car.”

The COA also found Jones’ Article 1, Section 11 state rights weren’t violated.

The case of State of Indiana v. Tala M. Jones, 21A-CR-2254, was remanded for trial.

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