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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Ind. Decisions - "When the appellee does not file a brief, we apply a less stringent standard of review and may reverse the trial court when the appellant establishes prima facie error."

The ILB has received some reader comment about the May 2nd Court of Appeals opinion in the case of State v. C.D. From the opinion by Sr. Judge Barteau:

Petitioner-Appellant State of Indiana appeals the trial court’s grant of Respondent-Appellee C.D.’s motion to suppress evidence. We reverse and remand. * * *

We note that C.D. did not file an Appellee’s Brief. When the appellee does not file a brief, we apply a less stringent standard of review and may reverse the trial court when the appellant establishes prima facie error. State v. Combs, 921 N.E.2d 846, 850 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010). “Prima facie” is defined as “at first sight, on first appearance, or on the face of it.” Id. This rule is not intended to benefit the appellant, but rather to relieve this Court of the burden of developing arguments on behalf of the appellee. State v. Moriarty, 832 N.E.2d 555, 558 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005). The burden of demonstrating trial court error remains with the appellant. Combs, 921 N.E.2d at 850.

C.D.’s motion to suppress raised two claims: (1) Vanwanzeele and Richhart erroneously interrogated C.D. without giving him an opportunity to consult with his parents; and (2) Vanwanzeele erroneously searched C.D.’s backpack without a warrant. The State challenges each point on appeal, and we address each in turn. * * *

[W]e conclude that C.D. was not undergoing custodial interrogation when he answered Richhart’s questions and made an incriminating admission, and the Miranda warnings and safeguards in Indiana Code section 31-32-5-1 (1997) are inapplicable here. Thus, C.D. was not deprived of his right to meaningful consultation with his parents when Richhart examined him. * * *

In this case, C.D. appeared impaired to Vanwanzeele, and Richhart told Vanwanzeele that he thought that C.D. was under the influence of marijuana and had smoked it that day. Based on this information, a search of C.D.’s backpack for controlled substances was justified, and the search was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances. Having been informed that C.D. was, in Richhart’s opinion, presently under the influence of marijuana, it was reasonable for Vanwanzeele to check C.D.’s backpack for more marijuana or for paraphernalia. See T.S., 863 N.E.2d at 377 (determining that an officer’s removal of a student from class and questioning the student as to whether he had drugs did not violate the Fourth Amendment because the officer had received an anonymous tip that the student had drugs on his person that day).

We conclude that the State has demonstrated prima facie error, and the trial court’s suppression of all evidence obtained prior to C.D.’s consultation with his parents is contrary to law.

For the reasons stated above, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

From a reader:
There's a published opinion May 2nd in State v. C.D., a juvenile case.

The trial court suppressed evidence because of a lack of meaningful opportunity to consult, and the state appealed.

The Court reversed, holding that being sent to the principal's office, examined by a 'drug identification officer' and interrogated was not a "custodial interrogation."

There's no attorney listed for the juvenile, and no appellee's brief was filed. This seems like the kind of case where it would have been really beneficial to have the benefit of an appellee's brief.

In answer to the ILB's question, IU Law Prof Joel Schumm responded that "This happens a fair amount when the State appeals." He continued:
There is a difference between an appeal of a reserved question of law following an acquittal, with no future consequences for the defendant, and a case like C.D., which involves suppressed evidence that will now be admissible at a trial that otherwise would not have been possible.

It is especially important that defendants have counsel represent their interests in these appeals. Under Appellate Rule 17(A), parties in the trial court are parties on appeal. The juvenile's trial counsel should have received notice of the appeal and either represented the juvenile on appeal or made sure someone did.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 4, 2011 12:14 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions