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Cartwright v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 25, 2015

David B. Cartwright, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

Page 664

Appeal from the Posey Circuit Court. The Honorable James M. Redwine, Judge. Cause No. 65C01-1303-FB-89.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: W. Trent Van Haaften, Van Haaften & Farrar, Attorneys At Law LLC, Mount Vernon, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Cynthia L. Ploughe, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Darden, Senior Judge. Mathias, J., concurs. Baker, J., dissents.


Page 665

Darden, Senior Judge

Statement of the Case

[¶1] Police officers executed a search warrant at David B. Cartwright's home and found evidence that caused the State to charge him with several methamphetamine-related offenses. The trial court held a bench trial and convicted Cartwright of manufacturing methamphetamine, a Class B felony, Ind. Code § 35-48-4-1.1 (2006); possession of methamphetamine, a Class C felony, Ind. Code § 35-48-4-6.1 (2006); possession of chemical reagents or precursors with intent to manufacture a controlled substance, a Class C felony, Ind. Code § 35-48-4-14.5 (2006); and maintaining a common nuisance, a Class D felony, Ind. Code § 35-48-4-13 (2001).

[¶2] Cartwright raises one issue, which we restate as whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence discovered as a result of the search warrant. Concluding that there was insufficient probable cause to issue a search warrant, and that the evidence was thus inadmissible, we reverse.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶3] On March 6, 2013, Detective Jeremy Fortune met with a confidential informant who was incarcerated at the Posey County Jail. The informant had said that he[1] wanted to talk about " drug information in Posey County." Tr. p. 6. Detective Fortune did not know anything about the informant before the meeting. The informant was being held because he had an active arrest warrant for failure to appear in court in Illinois on an unidentified charge.

[¶4] Detective Fortune took an audiotaped statement from the informant. The informant stated that a person he knew as " Dave" had manufactured methamphetamine

Page 666

at a house in rural Posey County. Appellant's App. p. 31. The informant explained that he knew of Dave's activities because he had purchased methamphetamine from Dave " within the last 3 or 4 months" and had seen Dave making methamphetamine at that time. Id. at 31-32. In addition, the informant stated that he had seen Dave trade methamphetamine for money, pseudoephedrine, and a gun " in the past." Id.

[¶5] The informant further told Detective Fortune that he had been in Dave's house and had seen a number of firearms and ammunition. He had also heard Dave state a belief that he was being followed by police officers and threaten specific officers with harm. The informant stated that Dave told him that if police tried to arrest him, he would not " go down without a fight." Id. at 34.

[¶6] The informant told the officer how methamphetamine is manufactured. He also explained how Dave made methamphetamine and disposed of the waste products. He further told Detective Fortune he believed that Dave had six or eight regular buyers. In addition, he explained how to get to Dave's house, identified Dave's house on a map drawn by Detective Fortune, and described the interior of the house.

[¶7] The informant told Detective Fortune he had provided information about drug activity to Greg Hannish, an Illinois police officer, " approximately 8 years ago." Id. Detective Fortune contacted Officer Hannish, who knew the informant and said that the informant " had provided drug information to him in the past." Id.

[¶8] Based upon the interview, Detective Fortune concluded the informant was referring to Cartwright, who Fortune knew lived in rural Posey County. The area pointed out on the map matched the location of Cartwright's house. In addition, the informant had stated that there was an RV parked in front of Dave's house, and a detective drove by Cartwright's property and saw from the road an RV parked in the front. Other than observing the RV, the officers did not make any independent investigation of the situs and made no further attempts to corroborate the informant's statements regarding any ongoing criminal activity.

[¶9] Some four years prior to the interview, Detective Fortune had been driving past Cartwright's home when he saw a " fog haze" coming from the home and smelled ammonia and ether. Id. at 35. Fortune told the prosecutor what he had observed, but the prosecutor declined to seek a search warrant at that time for lack of sufficient probable cause.

[¶10] On March 7, 2013, Detective Fortune prepared a probable cause affidavit for a search warrant. He included the information set forth above, except that he did not state in the affidavit that the informant was incarcerated on an Illinois arrest warrant at the time of the interview. Detective Fortune described his extensive training and experience in investigating methamphetamine manufacturing and explained what, in his experience, one would likely find at a location where methamphetamine is being manufactured.

[¶11] Detective Fortune further stated that, in his opinion, the informant was credible because " given the information [the informant] has provided and given the fact that the description provided by [the informant] for the driving route to 'Dave's' home was known by your affiant to be an accurate description for traveling to Dave or David Cartwright's home." Id. at 41.

[¶12] The court issued a search warrant for Cartwright's property. Detective Fortune and other officers executed the warrant and found an active methamphetamine

Page 667

lab in Cartwright's house. They also found digital scales, a glass pipe, and firearms. Officers found a burn pile on Cartwright's property that contained stripped out battery casings. In addition, officers searched Cartwright's garage and found numerous empty boxes that had contained pseudoephedrine-based pills. They also found a plastic bag that contained methamphetamine residue. Their search of the house yielded only $79 in currency.

[¶13] The officers arrested Cartwright at his house and read him his Miranda rights. Next, the officers took him to jail. During the trip, he acknowledged that he was manufacturing methamphetamine.

[¶14] At the jail, Cartwright signed a waiver of his Miranda rights and submitted to a recorded interview with the officers. He again acknowledged that he manufactured methamphetamine in his house. He also explained what stage of the process he was in at the time the police arrived. In addition, he described how he was using various items and chemicals in the manufacturing process. Cartwright stated that he made and used methamphetamine to mitigate his back pain. He denied manufacturing methamphetamine to sell to others.

[¶15] The State charged Cartwright with the offenses described above, plus possession of marijuana. Cartwright filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the search warrant. The court denied Cartwright's motion after a hearing.

[¶16] Cartwright waived his right to a jury trial. At the bench trial, he raised a continuing objection to the admission of evidence obtained from the execution of the search warrant. The State submitted testimony and photographs describing the methamphetamine lab in Cartwright's house, his signed waiver of his Miranda rights, and the transcript of his interview, among other evidence. Next, the State dismissed the charge of possession of marijuana. The ...

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