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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ind. Decisions - More on "Police searches expand in Indiana"

Richard D. Walton of the Indianapolis Star has a story today on Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling in the case of Robert Trimble v. State of Indiana (see ILB entry here). Some quotes:

A dog named Butchie is at the center of an Indiana Supreme Court ruling reaffirming the right of police to enter outdoor private property and seize evidence that is within public view.

The court rejected Robert Trimble's claim that the warrantless 2003 police confiscation of a miniature Doberman pinscher violated Trimble's right against unreasonable search and seizure. The ruling overrides an Indiana Court of Appeals decision that had sided with Trimble.

The rural Jennings County resident agreed to care for an acquaintance's dog during a move. The pet owner's husband, in a visit with Trimble, noticed that the canine was chained to a doghouse on a cold day. Trimble assured the man that the dog slept inside every night.

When Butchie was seen again out in the cold about two weeks later, and appeared to be injured, a complaint was made. Sgt. Jeff Barger of the Jennings County Sheriff's Department parked behind Trimble's house and walked up to the back door. When no one answered, he checked a doghouse in the yard a few feet away.
Barger looked inside and pulled a chain, and Butchie emerged. "The dog was in horrible shape," Barger said Wednesday. "You could see its ribs and backbone through the skin." * * *

Barger called Animal Control, and Trimble was arrested. Convicted of abandonment/neglect of an animal and harboring a nonimmunized dog, he was sentenced to 10 days in jail and ordered to pay restitution to the dog's owner for veterinary bills.

Trimble appealed, arguing that because the doghouse was on his private property and no search warrant had been obtained, the seizure of Butchie was illegal. The appeals court agreed, but the Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively restored Trimble's conviction.

In an opinion written by Justice Theodore Boehm, the court said the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable intrusions "does not protect objects, activities or statements that a citizen has exposed to the plain view of outsiders."

While not suggesting that the information available to Barger at the time would have justified entry into Trimble's house, the justices said: "Here, the degree of intrusion is minimal. Barger entered onto Trimble's property only through generally accessible routes."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 23, 2006 07:13 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions