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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ind. Decisions - "Police searches expand in Indiana"

The Indianapolis Star and the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette both carry an AP story today on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in the case of Robert Trimble v. State of Indiana (see ILB entry here). According to the story:

Police investigating a credible report may legally enter outdoor private property and seize evidence of a crime if it is within public view, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

The ruling Tuesday stemmed from an animal neglect case but could have wider implications.

The state Court of Appeals had overturned Robert Trimble's conviction, accepting his argument that a Jennings County sheriff's deputy should not have taken evidence -- a dog -- from his fenced-in yard without a warrant.

A deputy went to Trimble's rural Jennings County home in February 2003 after receiving a report that an injured dog had been tied outside without food or water. The officer went to Trimble's back door, where most visitors entered, but no one answered, court documents said.

While in the yard, the officer saw a doghouse and found the animal inside. He then called an animal control officer to remove the dog, the documents said.

Trimble argued the search was an unconstitutional violation of his right to privacy and moved to suppress the evidence, but the trial judge rejected the claim. The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the lower court, but the state Supreme Court disagreed.

Justice Theodore Boehm wrote that the area was not immune from search merely because it was fenced in, because the doghouse was easily visible and the officer went only where any visitor might be expected to go.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 22, 2006 09:37 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions