Appeal from the Marion Superior Court. The Honorable Marilyn A. Moores, Judge. The Honorable Geoffrey A. Gaither, Magistrate. Cause No. 49D09-1406-JD-1558.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Ruth Johnson, Marion County Public Defender Agency, Indianapolis, Indiana; Timothy J. O'Connor, O'Connor & Auersch, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; George P. Sherman, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.
[¶1] K.K., a juvenile, brings this appeal after he was adjudicated a delinquent child for having committed the offense of dangerous possession of a firearm, a Class A misdemeanor. He raises one issue tat we restate as: whether the odor of burnt marijuana emanating from a vehicle in which K.K. was a passenger provided probable cause for officers to arrest the car's three occupants, such that the loaded handgun found during the subsequent search of K.K. was properly admitted into evidence.
[¶2] We affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
[¶3] While on patrol in the early morning hours of April 12, 2014, Officer Vincent Stewart of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department observed a two-toned Ford Crown Victoria that appeared similar to those used by law enforcement. It caught his attention because " we have a lot of impersonators and they are still driving these former police vehicles." Tr. at 6. He also observed that the windows were tinted " very dark." Id. Officer Stewart ran a search of the plates and learned that it was previously registered to a sheriff's office or police department and that the current registered owner's driver's license was suspended. Officer Stewart then initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle.
[¶4] As is his custom, Officer Stewart approached the car from the passenger's side, and he saw that, in addition to the adult male driver, there were two additional occupants, not previously observable because of the tinted windows. The driver's son was the front seat passenger, and his friend, K.K., age seventeen, was seated in the backseat. As Officer Stewart was speaking with and obtaining identification from the three occupants, he noticed a strong odor of burnt marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. This concerned him, and he radioed for assistance. Rather than returning to his patrol car, Officer Stewart remained at the stopped vehicle and continued to speak with the three individuals inside it, including asking the occupants if there were " any guns, knives, or weapons of mass destruction in the vehicle," which he always asks during traffic stops for officer safety, and the response he received was that there were none. Id. at 12. Another officer arrived
at the scene, at which time Officer Stewart directed the three occupants to step out of the vehicle.
[¶5] One or both of the officers conducted a " quick pat down" of the three occupants, from which nothing was found, and they were placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the curb. Id. at 13. A third officer, Officer Michael Leepper, arrived at the scene about that time. While Officer Stewart stepped away, Officer Leepper positioned himself to supervise the three who were handcuffed. Officer Leepper observed K.K. make a furtive movement by " blading" or turning his body to his left side. Id. at 29-30. Officer Leepper also noticed that K.K. looked " very nervous," in contrast to the other two individuals. Id. at 31. Suspecting that K.K. was attempting to conceal something or trying to retrieve something, Officer Leepper directed K.K. to stand, at which time Officer Leepper patted down K.K. and discovered a loaded Glock handgun in the pocket of his basketball shorts. The serial number of the firearm had been scratched out.
[¶6] The State filed a petition alleging that K.K., then-seventeen years old, was a delinquent child for having committed the offenses of dangerous possession of a firearm, a Class A misdemeanor, and carrying a handgun without a ...