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Whitley v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 7, 2015

Phillip Whitley, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court. The Honorable Steven R. Eichholtz, Judge. Trial Court Cause No. 49G20-1402-FA-8402.

         ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Kimberly A. Jackson, David R. Hennessy, Indianapolis, Indiana.

         ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Chandra K. Hein, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

         Mathias, Judge. Vaidik, C.J., and Barnes, J., concur.

          OPINION

         Mathias, Judge.

         [¶1] Phillip Whitley (" Whitley" ) was charged in Marion Superior Court with Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine, Class C felony possession of methamphetamine, Class D felony possession of a controlled substance, and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended. The evidence supporting the charges was discovered during an inventory search of the vehicle Whitley was driving. Whitley filed a motion to suppress this evidence, arguing the warrantless search violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11. The trial court denied Whitley's motion to suppress, certified its decision, and our court has accepted jurisdiction of this interlocutory appeal.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] At approximately 12:35 a.m. on February 20, 2014, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer (" IMPD" ) Frederick Lantzer (" Officer Lantzer" ) initiated a traffic stop of a pick up truck because it displayed a passenger car license plate. The license plate was also registered to a different vehicle. Whitley, the driver of the truck, provided his name to Officer Lantzer and admitted that he lacked a valid driver's license. After Whitley was unable to produce the truck's registration, the officer confirmed that the truck was not registered to Whitley and that his driver's license was suspended.

         [¶4] The truck was parked on Auburn Street near the intersection Auburn Street and Washington Street. Because the truck was partially in the roadway, Officer Lantzer decided it was necessary to impound the truck, and IMPD Officer Tim Huddleston (" Officer Huddleston) conducted the administratively required inventory search roadside. During the search, the officer discovered a " decorative box" on the front passenger's seat containing a substance later identified as more than seven grams of methamphetamine, a lighter, a package of rolling papers, a money clip, a burnt marijuana cigarette, and a pill bottle. The pill bottle contained two alprazolam pills and eight clonazepam pills, Schedule IV prescription drugs for which Whitley had no prescriptions.

         [¶5] Whitley was also searched incident to his arrest, and a glass pipe commonly used to smoke methamphetamine was found in his pocket. He also had $1135 in his wallet.

         [¶6] On February 24, 2014, Whitley was charged with Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine, Class C felony possession of methamphetamine, Class D felony possession of a controlled substance, and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended. On September 10, 2014, Whitley filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized during the search of the truck, arguing that the warrantless search violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11.

         [¶7] At the hearing held on Whitley's motion, the trial court admitted into evidence the IMPD's General Order 7.3 on Towing and Impounding Vehicles. The order states that an IMPD officer may impound a vehicle if it is " [b]eing operated by a non-licensed or suspended driver" and defines a vehicle inventory search as " an administrative, routine and warrantless search of the passenger area (including the glove compartment), trunk, and closed containers[.]" Ex. Vol., State's Ex. 1. The order also provides that inventory searches " should not be motivated by an officer's desire to investigate and seize evidence of a criminal act." Id. Also, " [w]henever an officer takes a vehicle into custody, an inventory search will be conducted prior to impoundment and a detailed listing of any property found in the vehicle will be made." Id. The order also directs the officer to search all containers. Id. Finally, the order requires all property discovered during an inventory search to " be listed in the officer's personal notebook." Id.

         [¶8] Officer Lantzer testified that the truck was impounded because the owner was not identified to the officers and it was parked halfway in the roadway blocking a lane of traffic. Tr. pp. 13-14. Officer Huddleston performed the inventory search but did not complete any related paperwork. He told Officer Lantzer what he found in the truck, and Officer Lantzer listed certain items in the probable cause affidavit. Photographs taken of the interior of truck by the evidence technician after Officer Huddleston's search established that other personal items were in the truck that were not listed by Officer Lantzer in the probable cause affidavit.

         [¶9] On November 25, 2014, the trial court issued its order denying Whitley's motion to suppress. In its order, the court observed that impoundment of the truck was proper but also concluded that the procedures outlined in the IMPD's General Order 7.3 on Towing and Impounding Vehicles were not followed. Appellant's App. p. 52. Specifically, the court noted that Officer Huddleston " did not list any items" found during the inventory search: " not in the officer's personal notebook, not on the tow slip, or anywhere else." Appellant's App. p. 52. However, Officer Lantzer listed items discovered during the inventory search in his probable cause affidavit. Therefore, the court concluded that " there is nothing to indicate that this was anything other than a routine inventory search and was not a pretext for a narcotics investigation." Id.

         [¶10] Thereafter, Whitley filed a motion requesting that the trial court certify its order denying his motion to suppress for interlocutory appeal. The trial court granted his motion, and on February 6, 2015, our court accepted jurisdiction of Whitley's interlocutory appeal.[1]

         Standard of Review

         [¶11] We review both a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress and its rulings on the admissibility of evidence for an abuse of discretion. Goens v. State, 943 N.E.2d 829, 831 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011). A trial court abuses its discretion if its decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it. Id. In conducting our review, we will neither reweigh the evidence nor assess witness credibility, and we will consider conflicting evidence in a light most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Id. at 831-32. " However, we must also consider the uncontested evidence favorable to the defendant." Webster v. State, 908 N.E.2d 289 (Ind.Ct.App. 2009), trans. denied.

         Standing

         [¶12] As an initial matter, the State argues that Whitley did not establish that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the truck or that he had standing under the Indiana Constitution that would allow him to challenge the validity of the search. However, the State concedes ...


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