Denial of motion to suppress affirmed in traffic stop case

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the denial of a man’s motion to suppress evidence of narcotics discovered in his vehicle during a traffic stop after a tip that he had been using drugs in his Purdue University dorm room.

In Justin Danh v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-1148, a Purdue University Police Officer was dispatched to a campus residence hall after receiving reports of drug use in Justin Danh’s room. The officer K9 alerted the presence of narcotics at the door of Danh’s room, but his roommate would not allow a search. Several months later, Danh’s new roommate, Tristan Moreno, reported that Danh had been using drugs and was in possession of a handgun he believed to be stolen.

A few weeks after that conversation, Danh was pulled over in a traffic stop by the same officer. A K-9 sniff and search of the vehicle revealed Xanax and marijuana and a subsequent search of his apartment revealed the handgun. Danh was ultimately charged with Level 3 felony dealing a schedule IV controlled substance, Level 6 felony possession of a controlled substance, Level 6 felony maintaining a common nuisance, Class A misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, and Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

A trial court denied Danh’s motion to suppress the evidence revealed during both searches, and Danh filed a motion for the COA to accept his interlocutory appeal.

In affirming the denial, the appellate court concluded that the officer had a reasonable suspicion to believe that Danh possessed a firearm and/or illegal substances when he stopped him for a traffic violation. Specifically, the COA noted that based on the specificity of the tip provided by Moreno, and the personal information provided to police for follow up, the nature of Moreno’s tip was that of a concerned citizen.

Additionally, the appellate court found that even though Moreno’s tip was approximately three weeks old, it was specific and Moreno provided multiple personal details as to avail himself to criminal prosecution should his report be found false.

“Some of the details given by Moreno, specifically regarding Danh’s drug use and the type of gun Danh showed Moreno, were corroborated by other investigations. Based on the totality of the circumstances, we conclude Officer (Keifer) Mikels had reasonable suspicion that Danh possessed a firearm and illegal substances, which justifies the patdown search of Danh and the dog sniff of Danh’s vehicle,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the appellate court.

Turning to the issue of the dog sniff, the appellate court concluded that it did not unreasonably delay the traffic stop or violate Danh’s Fourth Amendments rights.

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