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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ind. Decisions - One today from the Supreme Court

In State of Indiana v. Heath A. Spillers, a 14-page opinion (with concurring opinion beginning on p. 11), Justice Rucker writes:

Heath Spillers was charged with dealing in cocaine as a Class A felony. The trial court granted Spillers’ motion to suppress and on review the Court of Appeals reversed. We granted transfer to address the application of the rule declaring that an informant’s “declarations against penal interest” are sufficient to establish the informant’s credibility for the issuance of a search warrant. * * *

Although we have ultimately concluded that the warrant on which the police relied to search Spillers’ home was not supported by probable cause, we cannot say that the executing officers’ reliance on the issuing judge’s determination of probable cause was entirely unreasonable. Indeed our conclusion that Craib’s statements were not declarations made against his penal interest was reached only after examining more carefully existing case law on the subject. It is true that officers are required “to have a reasonable knowledge of what the law prohibits.” Id. But that does not mean that officers are required to engage in extensive legal research and analysis before obtaining search warrants. We conclude that the officers in this case relied on the search warrant in objective good faith. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s grant of Spillers’ motion to suppress the evidence found in his home.

Conclusion. The judgment of the trial court is reversed.

Shepard, C.J., and Sullivan, J., concur.
Boehm, J., concurs in result with separate opinion in which Dickson, J., concurs.

In my view, Craib’s statements that Spillers was his supplier had sufficient indicia of reliability to satisfy the probable cause requirement for issuance of a warrant. I therefore agree that the trial court’s order granting Spillers’ motion to suppress evidence should be reversed, but disagree that resort to the Leon good faith rule is necessary to achieve that result.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 23, 2006 09:32 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions