Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of four counts of felony child molesting, holding that the attenuation doctrine can apply under the Indiana Constitution and that Defendant’s statements to law enforcement constituted admissible evidence against him. Defendant moved to suppress evidence obtained from an FBI search and subsequent police interviews, alleging that he had been illegally detained and searched. The trial court suppressed evidence obtained from searching Defendant’s computer and electronic equipment, finding that Defendant’s consent to the search was invalid but denied suppression of Defendant’s statements to law enforcement officers, concluding that they were sufficiently attenuated from the illegal search. The court of appeals reversed Defendant’s convictions, holding that the trial court erred in admitting Defendant’s confessions to the officers, ultimately rejecting the attenuation doctrine for Indiana. The Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals opinion and affirmed, holding (1) the Indiana Constitution embraces the attenuation doctrine; and (2) Defendant’s statements to law enforcement were sufficiently attenuated from the illegal search so as to be purged from the original taint and were thus admissible at trial. View "Wright v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the requirement set forth in Pirtle v. State, 323 N.E.2d 634 (Ind. 1975), that an advisement of rights be given prior to police obtaining consent to a search from a person in custody does not extend to drug recognition exams (DRE). At issue was whether police are required to advise a person in custody of his or her right to consult with counsel before obtaining consent to perform the DRE exam. The Court of Appeals concluded that without a Pirtle warning, evidence obtained through a DRE is inadmissible. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that an advisement is not necessary before police can obtain a person’s valid consent to a DRE. View "Dycus v. State" on Justia Law

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The trial court did not err in admitting Defendant’s incriminating statements made in a motel room during the course of a custodial interrogation without an electronic recording of those statements. Defendant was charged with and convicted of several drug crimes. On appeal, Defendant argued that two post-Miranda self-incriminating statements he made to officers in a motel room should not have been admitted into evidence because no electronic recording of the statements was made available at trial, as required by Ind. R. Evid. 617. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that a motel room, as used by law enforcement in this case to carry out an undercover investigation and to search a suspect incident to his arrest, is not a place of detention as defined by Rule 617. View "Fansler v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was when public school students are entitled to Miranda warnings at school. B.A., who was thirteen years old, was escorted from a school bus and questioned in a vice-principal’s office in response to a bomb threat on a bathroom wall. Three officers wearing police uniforms hovered over B.A. and encouraged him to confess. B.A. moved to suppress the evidence from his interview, arguing that he was entitled to Miranda warnings because he was under custodial interrogation and officers failed to secure waiver of his Miranda rights under Indiana’s juvenile waiver statute, Ind. Code 31-32-5-1. The juvenile court denied the motion and found B.A. delinquent for committing false reporting and institutional criminal mischief. The Supreme Court reversed B.A.’s delinquency adjudications, holding (1) B.A. was in police custody and under police interrogation when he made the incriminating statements; and (2) therefore, B.A.’s statements should have been suppressed under both Miranda and Indiana’s juvenile waiver statute. View "B.A. v. State" on Justia Law

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Because Defendant’s affirmative actions at trial resulted in a violation of his right to an impartial jury, the invited-error doctrine required that Defendant’s conviction be affirmed. After a second trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder. During trial, defense counsel expressly agreed to the trial court’s constitutionally defective procedure for removing and replacing a juror after deliberations had begun. On appeal, Defendant argued that, despite his acquiescence, the court’s procedure violated his constitutional right to an impartial jury, thus resulting in reversible error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there is no reason to exempt structural errors from the invited-error doctrine; and (2) Defendant invited the error in this case as part of a deliberate trial strategy, and therefore, his conviction must be affirmed. View "Durden v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision to uphold the rulings of magistrates that issued a warrant to conduct a thermal-imaging search of a private residence and a warrant to search the physical premises, holding that probable cause supported both warrants. After conducting an investigation to corroborate an anonymous tip of a potential marijuana grow operation at a private residence, the police received a warrant to conduct a thermal-imaging search of the home. The evidence discovered in the search led the police to request the second warrant to search the premises. The search led to Defendant’s conviction for dealing in marijuana and marijuana possession. On appeal, Defendant argued that both warrants lacked probable cause based on uncorroborated hearsay in the underlying affidavits. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence in the first affidavit to corroborate the tipster’s allegation of criminal activity; and (2) the second affidavit contained sufficient information to establish probable cause under the collective-knowledge doctrine. View "McGrath v. State" on Justia Law

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Indiana’s post-conviction rules did not allow Petitioner to bring a challenge to a statute barring him, as a serious sex offender, from school property in a post-conviction proceeding because Petitioner was challenging a collateral consequence of his conviction instead of his conviction or sentence. In 2010, Petitioner pleaded guilty to child solicitation. Petitioner’s probation conditions made schools off-limits, but Petitioner received an exception for his son’s activities. In 2015, Indiana Code 35-42-4-14 made it a Level 6 felony for a “serious sex offender” to knowingly or intentionally enter school property, which resulted in Petitioner being forced to stop attending school events. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, arguing that the new statute was an unconstitutional ex post facto law. The post-conviction court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the post-conviction rules excluded Petitioner’s claim, but they did not foreclose a declaratory-judgment action. View "Kirby v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment concluding that the State’s proposed forfeiture of Defendant’s Land Rover that Defendant used to transport illegal drugs would violate the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. The State sought to forfeit the Land Rover after Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of Class B felony dealing and one count of Class D felony conspiracy to commit theft. The trial court denied the State’s action, concluding that forfeiture would be an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the United States Supreme Court has never enforced the Excessive Fines Clause against the states, and this court opts not to do so in this case; and (2) based on the trial court’s findings, the state proved it was entitled to forfeit the Land Rover. View "State v. Timbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. As grounds for the motion, Defendant argued that the search warrant authorizing the search was unsupported by probable cause under the Fourth Amendment and that its execution violated the search-and-seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment and Ind. Const. art. I, 11. The trial court denied the motion. A jury subsequently found Defendant guilty of of several drug-related offenses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under a state constitutional analysis, the police did not act unreasonably under the totality of the circumstances; and (2) under a federal constitutional analysis, the search warrant was supported by probable cause. View "Watkins v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overruled Salter v. State, 906 N.E.2d 2012 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), which found Ind. Code 35-49-3-3(a)(1) (the Dissemination Statute) void for vagueness was applied because the intended recipient met Indiana’s age of consent to sexual activity. Defendant in this case was charged with dissemination of matter harmful to minors under the Dissemination Statute for sending a photograph of his erect penis to a sixteen-year-old girl. Defendant moved to dismiss on constitutional grounds, arguing that the statute was void for vagueness. The trial court dismissed the charges, relying on Salter. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the Dissemination Statute is not unconstitutionally vague. View "State v. Thakar" on Justia Law