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Friday, June 20, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Nick McIlquham v. State of Indiana, an 8-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rush writes:

Police responded to a report of a very young child, unsupervised and partially clothed, wandering near a pond at an apartment complex. Defendant, the child’s father, arrived shortly thereafter and agreed to let the police check the safety of his apartment before leaving the child with him. “Courts should not be reticent in enforcing the constitutional rule restricting the search of a person’s home without a warrant or consent,” Hawkins v. State, 626 N.E.2d 436, 439 (Ind. 1993)—but here, Defendant consented to police entry into the apartment, and the child’s mother who was the leaseholder consented to a full search. Because of their consents, the contraband found in the apartment was properly admissible, and we affirm the trial court. * * *

The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the searches were valid because the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment permitted warrantless entry into the apartment to ensure the safety of unattended toddler R., and therefore declining to address whether the consents to search were valid. McIlquham v. State, 992 N.E.2d 904 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013). We granted transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals decision. McIlquham v. State, 2 N.E.3d 686 (Ind. 2014) (table); Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A). We now affirm, holding that Defendant and Mother validly consented to the searches—and accordingly, we decline to address the community-caretaking rationale the Court of Appeals advanced. * * *

During a voluntary encounter with police, Defendant consented by words and actions to police entering the apartment. Then, his own furtive movements justified a pat-down, which in turn opened the door to the contraband found in plain view. And then police were entitled for R.’s sake to wait for Mother and seek her consent, which she validly gave, to search the rest of the apartment. We therefore affirm the trial court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 20, 2014 10:54 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions