Indianapolis drug case underscores several material considerations

We have noted for readers in prior select blog posts that a proven criminal defense attorney often has multiple avenues to pursue when crafting a strategy to counter state or federal officials’ actions pursuant to their making an arrest and charging an individual with a crime.

A case recently reported in the legal publication Indiana Lawyer certainly bears that out, being centrally focused on considerations relating to an initial police stop, search-and-seizure issues and trial-based evidentiary matters.

Essentially, the bottom-line relevant to what pushed a police/citizen interaction through two rounds of Indiana court cases was this: an officer’s statement that, following a lawful vehicle stop (the driver had run through a red light), he could readily smell the odor of raw marijuana inside the stopped car, which he believed entitled him to engage in a warrantless search of the motorist and his vehicle.

That search turned up drugs, ranging from pot to a reportedly small amount of crack cocaine and some prescription pain pills.

Based on the seizure, the motorist was charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor drug-related offenses.

His attorney argued in court that the seized evidence was constitutionally infirm, that is, unlawfully gathered and thus needing to be suppressed.

The trial court agreed, throwing the evidence out.

The state appealed, with the defendant arguing that the former charges needed to be dismissed before the suppression order could be challenged. An appellate panel rejected that reasoning, holding that the state was not required to dismiss the underlying charges before appealing on the motion to suppress.

Ultimately, the court overruled the lower tribunal, finding that the officer’s testimony that he detected the odor of marijuana was reasonable and that he therefore had the necessary probably cause to search further.

Thus, the evidence seized was admissible. The court remanded the case for further deliberations.