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United States v. Vanhouten

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 4, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DENNIS NEIL VANHOUTEN, Defendant.

ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on Defendant Dennis Neil Vanhouten's motion to dismiss (dkt. no. 50) and motion to suppress (dkt. no. 48). The Government has responded to both motions (dkt. nos. 54 and 55). The Court, being duly advised, DENIES VanHouten's motion to dismiss. The Court TAKES UNDER ADVISEMENT VanHouten's motion to suppress until a factual finding can be made at trial.

I. BACKGROUND

A brief background of the facts relevant to these motions follows.

On April 16, 2013, VanHouten was traveling westbound on I-70 through Hendricks County, Indiana. Brownsburg Police Officer John Maples observed his vehicle traveling without a license plate and conducted a traffic stop. As Officer Maples approached VanHouten's vehicle, he observed a paper tag that was improperly displayed behind the window tint of the rear hatch window. Officer Maples then greeted VanHouten, informing him of why he was stopped. VanHouten gave Officer Maples his information, and he was released with a verbal warning.

Officer Maples then returned to his squad car and ran VanHouten's information. A violent sex offender arrest warrant hit. Officer Maples then initiated a second traffic stop in Putnam County, Indiana where VanHouten was arrested. Upon searching VanHouten's vehicle, officers found a Norinco model SKS rifle and a locked container that later reveled 1, 840 rounds of ammunition for the SKS rifle. VanHouten was then charged by way of an indictment as a convicted felon in possession of an assault rifle and ammunition, all in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 922(g).

II. DISCUSSION

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b), VanHouten filed a motion to dismiss the indictment and a motion to suppress evidence. Each will be addressed, in turn, below.

A. Motion to Dismiss

VanHouten raises four issues in his motion to dismiss; however, two overlap with his motion to suppress. Accordingly, the Court will address those arguments unique to the motion to dismiss first.

First, VanHouten argues that the he was not given notice of the grand jury proceeding and was therefore unable to raise any challenges to the proceeding and grand juror members, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. However, as the Government notes, VanHouten had no right to be present at the grand jury proceeding:

It is axiomatic that the grand jury sits not to determine guilt or innocence, but to assess whether there is adequate basis for bringing a criminal charge. That has always been so; and to make the assessment it has always been thought sufficient to hear only the prosecutor's side. ... According to the description of an early American court, three years before the Fifth Amendment was ratified, it is the grand jury's function not "to enquire... upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied, " or otherwise to try the suspect's defenses, but only to examine "upon what foundation [the charge] is made" by the prosecutor. As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.

United States v. Williams, 504 U.S. 36, 51-52 (1992) (internal citations omitted) (emphasis added). Accordingly, VanHouten's claim that the grand jury proceeding - and resulting indictment - is violative of his Fifth Amendment right, fails.

VanHouten's next argument is that the indictment is defective because it fails to include the serial number of the firearm. The Court does not agree. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(c)(1) provides the following: "The indictment or information must be a plain, concise, and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged and must be signed by an attorney for the government." The Seventh Circuit has noted that an indictment is constitutionally adequate and complies with Rule 7(c)(1) if: 1) it states the elements of the offense charged; 2) it fairly informs the defendant of the nature of the charge so that he may prepare a defense; and 3) it ...


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