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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court posts one late today, a 3-2 ruling

In State v. Raymond Washington, Jr., an 18-page, 3-2 opinion, Justice Dickson writes:

Pursuant to statutory authority, the State appeals from the trial court order granting the defendant's motion to suppress evidence in a criminal case charging the defendant with possession of marijuana. Upon the granting of the defendant's motion to suppress, the State dismissed the charges and brought this appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in a published opinion. State v. Washington, 875 N.E.2d 278 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007). We granted transfer and now reverse the trial court.

The sole issue before this Court is whether, under both the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, § 11 of the Indiana Constitution, an officer, without reasonable suspicion, can inquire as to possible further criminal activity, in this case drug possession, when a motorist is stopped for a traffic infraction. * * *

1. Federal Constitution Fourth Amendment

The State contends that the question asked by the officer was neither a search nor a seizure and thus did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The State argues that the defendant had a choice as to whether to answer the officer‘s question or not, that the question did not extend the duration of the stop, that it was not unduly intrusive into the defendant's privacy, and that it was not unreasonable. * * *

We conclude that the officer's question to the defendant did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

2. Indiana Constitution, Art. I, § 11

The State acknowledges that the Indiana Constitution's prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure, although almost identical in text to its federal counterpart, nevertheless re- quires a different analysis that focuses on the totality of the circumstances, but argues that under such test the officer's conduct here was completely reasonable. The defendant urges that Section 11 should be interpreted to preclude such police conduct because of the important value of individual privacy. * * *

The officer's question whether the defendant held contraband on his person, notwith- standing the absence of reasonable suspicion, was not unreasonable under the totality of the cir- cumstances and did not violate Article 1, Section 11, of the Indiana Constitution.


We reverse the trial court order granting the defendant's motion to suppress. This cause is remanded.

Shepard, C.J., and Sullivan, J., concur.

Boehm, J., dissents with separate opinion. [which concludes] In sum, I believe that the Indiana Constitution requires reasonable suspicion of a separate offense before an officer conducting a traffic stop may broaden the questioning to other subjects beyond those appropriate to process the traffic violation and protect officer safety. Arrests for more serious offenses typically do not afford such wide discretion as to whom to investigate. The extent to which those arrests justify more extensive questioning is a subject for another day.

Rucker, J., dissents with separate opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 31, 2008 05:28 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions