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Criminal Procedure- Search and Seizure

Carpenter v. State (Ind. Ct. App. Sept. 19, 2012)

In this case the Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction for Class B felony conspiracy to commit dealing in methamphetamine. The factual circumstances that led to the defendant’s arrest are unusual and raised important constitutional issues.

Local sheriff deputies had an arrest warrant that listed the arrestee’s address as an intersection. The deputies asked the local police for assistance, and were told that the arrestee lived at an address near the intersection. The deputies went to the house to which the local police directed them to serve the warrant. After they knocked on the door, sheriffs observed people in the house flushing items down the toilet and saw what appeared to be a methamphetamine lab. After the deputies obtained a search warrant, they entered the residence and arrested the defendant, who was ultimately convicted of Class B felony conspiracy to commit dealing in methamphetamine. The person listed on the arrest warrant did not live at the residence and had not for over a year.

The defendant appealed, arguing that the deputies’ search violated both the United States Constitution and the Indiana Constitution. He argued that the police did not have a legitimate reason for being on the property because the person they were attempting to arrest had not lived at the property for over a year and the officers did not have reason to believe that he was at the property. The defendant also argued that a deputy’s initial entry into the side yard, looking into the window, and returning to the window with anther deputy were unlawful.

The Court of Appeals first found that the officers’ decision to go to the house was reasonable under the 4 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
We conclude that the information known to the officers was sufficient to give the officers a reasonable belief that the house was Howard’s residence and that Howard was present at the time. The arrest warrant listed an approximate last known address for Howard and that information was confirmed by another officer. Further, given the late hour, the vehicles in the driveway, and the lights on at the residence, the officers had reason to believe that Howard would be home. The fact that the officers’ beliefs were ultimately incorrect is merely hindsight and does not affect whether they had reason to believe that the house was Howard’s residence and that Howard was present at the time of serving the warrant.
Slip Op. p.6-7, internal citations omitted.

The defendant then argued that the deputies improperly entered the residence’s curtilage (the land immediately surrounding and associated with the home). The Court reasoned that because the arrest warrant gave the officers authority to enter the house, they had authority to enter the curtilage and observe things in plain view and that the officers’ action did not violate the 4 Amendment.

The Court next addressed the defendant’s Indiana Constitution argument. Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution uses the same language as the 4 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But Indiana courts use a different analysis when deciding whether state action violates the Indiana Constitution than when deciding whether state action violates the U.S. Constitution. In order for an appellate court to analyze state action under the Indiana Constitution, an appealing party must do more than cite the Indiana Constitution; the party must present argument regarding factors used to determine whether action is reasonable. In this case, the Court held the defendant waived his argument by failing to discuss the factors. Nevertheless, the Court held that the officers’ action did not violate the Indiana Constitution:
The officers here had reason to believe that Howard lived at the residence and was present, and thus, the degree of suspicion was moderate. The degree of intrusion into Carpenter’s residence was minimal, and the extent of the law enforcement needs was moderate.
Slip. Op. p.11.

This case involves a thorough discussion of 4 Amendment and Article 1, Section 11 law. It is a good starting place for an appellate practitioner addressing a potentially improper search. It also is a reminder that raising an argument based on Article 1, Section 11 should include a thoughtful analysis of how the state action was unreasonable under the Litchfield factors.

The factors are: “1) the degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that a violation has occurred, 2) the degree of intrusion the method of the search or seizure imposes on the citizen’s ordinary activities, and 3) the extent of law enforcement needs.” Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 361 (Ind. 2005).

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