Police-trainee’s blood-draw suppression in 2015 crash case reversed

A former police trainee accused of causing a drunken-driving crash on Interstate 465 five summers ago will go back to court with more evidence against him. The Indiana Supreme Court on Monday ruled that results of a blood draw after he refused a breath test were wrongly suppressed in Marion Superior Court.

Wesley Ryder was charged in June 2015 with two Level 6 felony operating while intoxicated counts and two misdemeanors after he was behind the wheel in an early-morning, wrong-way crash that seriously injured other motorists. Authorities alleged Ryder was intoxicated as he drove the wrong way on the interstate, but the Marion Superior Court suppressed results of his blood draw.

After Ryder refused a breath test, he was taken to the Marion County Arrestee Processing Center. “Although a judge was usually on call overnight at the processing center, inexplicably none were available that morning,” Justice Mark Massa wrote.

“As time was of the essence, Trooper (Robert) Augst called Marion County Superior Court Judge Barbara Crawford, who agreed to meet him at a Speedway gas station along the freeway to consider his search warrant request. Before leaving the processing center, Trooper Augst worked with a prosecutor to prepare his probable cause affidavit and proposed warrant,” Massa wrote. “An employee of the Marion County Clerk’s office made an entry in the recording system creating a cause number around 7:15 a.m., and the cause number was included in the affidavit presented to Judge Crawford. The parties dispute whether Trooper Augst left a copy of the probable cause affidavit and warrant with the Clerk before heading out to meet Judge Crawford.

“After arriving at the gas station parking lot, Judge Crawford reviewed the affidavit and approved the search warrant at 7:44 a.m. … With a signed copy of the warrant in hand, Trooper Augst transported Ryder to Eskenazi Hospital where a blood draw was taken” at 8:12 a.m., according to the narrative laid out by the Indiana Supreme Court. Augst returned to the APC about three hours later and dropped off the warrant and probable cause affidavit in the court clerk’s drop box.

“Three years later, Ryder moved to suppress the blood sample, alleging that its collection violated his rights against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Ryder also argued that suppression was appropriate as a violation of Indiana Code section 35-33-5-2, which explicitly bars issuing a search warrant until an affidavit is ‘filed with the judge.’ At the suppression hearing, Augst could not recall whether he had left a copy of the documents with Judge Crawford, and Judge Crawford was apparently never contacted about her recollection of events or to see if she had retained a copy of the affidavit,” Massa wrote.

The trial court granted Ryder’s motion to suppress, which was affirmed by a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals in a memorandum decision. 

But the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously reversed Monday and remanded in State of Indiana v. Wesley Ryder, 20S-CR-435.

“First, we hold that the warrant-authorizing judge certified contemporaneously, and in writing, that the probable cause affidavit had been properly filed with her when the search warrant was issued. Second, we hold that even if the affidavit was filed a few hours after it was presented to the authorizing judge — as the trial court found — it was still valid under Indiana’s substantial compliance filing doctrine and suppression of evidence obtained from the search warrant is not justified,” the panel held.

The justices unanimously ruled that the filing requirement was actually met in Ryder’s case, and four of five justices agreed that the filing requirement was substantially met. Justice Geoffrey Slaughter concurred as to the first finding and in the judgment without writing separately.

“We hold that the blood-draw search warrant application satisfied the filing requirement under Indiana Code subsection 35-33-5-2(a) because the signing judge’s uncontroverted certification that an affidavit had been delivered to her at the time of the warrant’s authorization established that the filing requirement had been satisfied. Alternatively, even if the warrant application was ‘filed’ four hours late, the tardy submission still constitutes substantial compliance with the filing requirement,” the court concluded.

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