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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today [Updated]

In Jonathan D. Carpenter v. State of Indiana, a 7-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Massa writes:

Jonathan Carpenter appeals the admission of evidence recovered from his home after officers entered it without a warrant in pursuit of an aggressive and bloody dog. We are asked to decide whether that entry was reasonable. Because we find it was not, we hold that the search violated Article 1, Section 11 of our Indiana Constitution and thus we reverse the trial court. * * *

Carpenter appealed his conviction, arguing the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the challenged evidence and without it, his conviction lacked sufficient evidentiary support. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court, concluding exigent circumstances justified the officers’ warrantless entry into Carpenter’s home. Carpenter v. State, 3 N.E.3d 1068, 1071– 73 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014). * * *

Any threat of danger to the outside public was slight; the dog was confined in a fenced yard secured by a locked gate, and the officers could have further prevented the dog’s escape by closing the sliding door. The dogs’ aggressive behavior and bloodied appearance simply were not enough to give rise to a reasonable belief that a person was in danger of imminent harm or in need of immediate assistance. Moreover, the officers did not need to enter to address the situation. They had Carpenter’s phone number, and calling him or his employer to ensure that no one was in the residence would not have been overly burdensome. * * *

Taken together, these factors lead us to conclude the officers’ entry into Carpenter’s home was unreasonable and therefore impermissible under Section 11. Because the warrant was based on the officers’ observations made during their illegal presence inside Carpenter’s home, the admission of evidence recovered pursuant to that warrant was an abuse of discretion. And the State offered no other evidence against Carpenter. Accordingly, we must reverse his convictions.

Our opinion today does not mean that an animal’s condition or behavior could never give rise to reasonable grounds upon which a police officer could enter a residence without a warrant. All we hold is that on these facts, the trial court erred in concluding entry was reasonable without any objective evidence that a person required immediate assistance. Because we have resolved this issue under our Indiana Constitution, we need not consider Carpenter’s claim that the admission of the evidence found in his home violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution.

Conclusion. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we reverse the trial court.

[Updated at 6:26 PM] If you check the link to today's opinion now you will notice that it now states "Corrected" right under the date line. A check of the docket shows this entry:
ORDER: IT HAS COME TO THE COURT'S ATTENTION THAT THE OPINION HANDED DOWN ON OCTOBER 21, 2014 CONTAINS A TYPOGRAPHICAL ERROR ON PAGE 1.

SPECIFICALLY, ANDREW L. TEEL WAS OMITTED FROM THE LIST OF "ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT." THIS INADVERTENT ERROR WAS CORRECTED IN A REVISED OPINION THAT WAS DELIVERED TO THE CLERK WITH THIS NOTICE. NO OTHER CHANGES WERE MADE TO THE OPINION, AND NEITHER THE CORRECTED OPINION NOR THIS NOTICE ALTER THE DUE DATE FOR A PETITION FOR REHEARING.

THE CLERK IS DIRECTED TO (1) ENTER THIS NOTICE OF CHANGE ON THE CHRONOLOGICAL CASE SUMMARY; (2) SERVE ALL COUNSEL OF RECORD WITH A COPY OF THE CORRECTED OPINION AND THIS NOTICE; (3) MAKE ARRANGEMENTS FOR REMOVING THE ORIGINAL OPINION FROM THE COURT'S WEBSITE AND POSTING THE CORRECTED OPINION IN ITS PLACE; AND (4) SEND A COPY OF THIS NOTICE TO THOMSON/REUTERS, LEXISNEXIS, AND WOLTERS KLUWER.

MARK S. MASSA, JUSTICE (ORDER REC'D ON 10/21/14 @ 3:21 PM) ENTERED 10/21/14

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 21, 2014 01:23 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions