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Wilford v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 27, 2015

Lamont Wilford, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

Page 1024

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1025

Appeal from the Marion County Superior Court. The Honorable Deborah Shook. Cause No. 49F07-1305-CM-035442.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Suzy St. John, Marion County Public Defender, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Ellen H. Meilaender, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Bailey, Judge. Baker, J., and Bradford, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 1026

Bailey, Judge.

Case Summary

[¶1] Lamont Wilford (" Wilford" ) appeals his conviction for Carrying a Handgun without Being Licensed, as a Class A misdemeanor.[1] He challenges his conviction on the basis that the handgun and photographs of the gun were erroneously admitted into evidence because the gun was discovered during a warrantless search of the car Wilford was driving.[2] We affirm.

Issue

[¶2] Wilford presents one issue for review: whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence the

Page 1027

handgun and photographs of the gun discovered during a vehicle inventory search.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶3] Mid-morning on May 30, 2013, Wilford's father borrowed a green Oldsmobile from his daughter (Wilford's sister) to drive to work. He picked up Wilford on the way. After his father arrived at work, Wilford borrowed the car to run errands. Shortly after, Wilford was driving in Marion County when Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (" IMPD" ) Officer Eli Raisovich (" Officer Raisovich" ) observed multiple equipment problems with the car, including " multiple cracks" in the windshield and a " smashed" back end that left the tail light operable but exposed. (Tr. 6.) Officer Raisovich initiated a traffic stop, and Wilford pulled off the road and parked in a Planet Fitness parking lot.[3]

[¶4] Officer Raisovich approached the car and asked to see Wilford's driver's license. After conducting a computer search using the Indiana identification card Wilford presented, the officer learned that Wilford's driver's license was suspended with forty-two points and that Wilford had a prior suspension. Officer Raisovich decided to place Wilford under arrest for driving while suspended with a prior suspension and called for back-up, to which IMPD Sergeant Michael Jefferson (" Sergeant Jefferson" ) responded.

[¶5] The officers approached the car and asked Wilford to exit the vehicle. Wilford did not immediately comply and appeared to be fumbling with his keys and attempting to roll up the windows. Wilford testified that he was trying to close the windows and lock the car so he " could leave it there to have somebody pick it up." (Tr. 67.) Wilford eventually exited the car and was placed in handcuffs at the rear of Officer Raisovich's cruiser.

[¶6] Officer Raisovich then decided to impound the car " because of the unsafe condition of it and the fact that . . . Wilford was being arrested and he was not the owner of the vehicle." (Tr. 10.) Wilford told the officers that the car belonged to his sister, and Officer Raisovich testified that he would have released the vehicle " [i]f the owner would've been there and with a . . . valid license[.]" (Tr. 11.) But he also testified that, due to " the totality of the thing," that is, the unsafe condition, Wilford's arrest, and the fact that Wilford was not the owner, " our procedures in that situation" indicated the vehicle should be towed. (Tr. 11.)

[¶7] Officer Raisovich then asked Sergeant Jefferson to inventory the car's contents prior to towing. While completing the inventory, Sergeant Jefferson discovered a stolen handgun in the front center console. An evidence technician photographed the gun in the car. Wilford admitted that the gun was his and that he did not have a handgun license.

[¶8] On May 30, 2013, Wilford was charged with Carrying a Handgun without Being Licensed and Driving While Suspended with a Prior Suspension,[4] each a Class A misdemeanor. On July 9, 2014, a bench trial commenced. At trial, Wilford objected to the admission into evidence of the gun and photographs of the gun in the car, arguing that the vehicle search was not a valid inventory search and ...


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