from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49G14-1208-FD-054147. The
Honorable Jose D. Salinas, Judge. On Petition to Transfer
from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A05-1402-CR-00061.
FOR APPELLANT: Suzanne St. John, Marion County Public Defener
Agency, Indianapolis, Indiana; Heath Y. Johnson, Johnson,
Gray & Macabee, Franklin, Indiana.
FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of
Indiana, Larry D. Allen, Deputy Attorney General, Stephen R.
Creason, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Justice. Rush, C.J., Dickson and Massa, J.J., concur. Rucker,
J., concurs in result only.
August 2012, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Phillip
Robinett conducted a routine traffic stop. Upon making the
stop, he discovered that the driver, Antonio Garcia, was
driving without a valid driver's license. Garcia was
lawfully placed under arrest. Before Officer Robinett placed
Garcia in his police cruiser to be transported to the police
station, he conducted a quick pat-down search of Garcia's
clothing in order to check for weapons. A cylinder-shaped
pill container was found in Garcia's pocket. Officer
Robinett opened the container to check what it contained. The
content was later confirmed to be a single narcotic pill,
which Garcia did not have a valid prescription for.
was charged with driving without a license and possession of
a controlled substance. At trial, Garcia sought to suppress
the admission of the pill container and its contents as the
fruit of an unlawful search under Article 1, Section 11 of
the Indiana Constitution. It was not disputed that Officer
Robinett was free to conduct a warrantless pat-down search of
Garcia's person incident to his arrest. Rather, Garcia
only challenged the opening of the pill container as being an
disagree with Garcia's contention that opening the pill
container during the course of the pat-down search incident
to his arrest constituted an unreasonable search. As such, we
affirm the trial court's denial of Garcia's motion to
suppress and hold that the search of Garcia incident to his
arrest was reasonable under Article 1, Section 11 of the
and Procedural History
August 6, 2012, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer
Phillip Robinett observed a vehicle driving without
headlights at approximately 9:00 p.m. Officer Robinett turned
his police cruiser around to initiate a traffic stop. The
vehicle then turned without signaling into a parking spot,
even prior to Officer Robinett activating the police cruiser
lights and sirens.
approaching the vehicle, Officer Robinett requested a
driver's license from the vehicle driver. The driver, who
was later identified as Antonio Garcia, only had an
identification card from a foreign country. Officer Robinett
confirmed that Garcia did not hold a valid driver's
license, and he initiated an arrest for driving without a
to the arrest, Officer Robinett conducted a pat-down search
of Garcia to check for weapons. No weapons were found during
the search, but a silver cylinder-shaped container was
recovered from Garcia's front left pocket. Through his
work as a police officer, Officer Robinett had encountered
similar containers and recognized that it likely contained
either an illegal substance or properly prescribed
prescriptions. Upon opening the container, Officer Robinett
found a single pill. Garcia was taken into custody, and his
vehicle was towed. The cylinder was delivered to the police
department property room, and the contents of the container,
a single pill, was later submitted to the crime lab for
testing. The crime lab report indicated that the pill
contained Hydrocodone. Garcia did not have a valid
prescription for this medication.
was charged with possession of a controlled
substance and with operating a vehicle without a
driver's license. A bench trial was held. At trial, the
defense made a motion to suppress the cylinder container and
its contents from being admitted into evidence. The defense
asserted that Officer Robinett did not have the authority to
open the container, but conceded that the container could
have been seized as a search incident to arrest. The State
opposed the motion, relying upon U.S. v. Robinson,
414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973), to argue
that opening the container found on Garcia's person was a
permissible warrantless search incident to arrest.
trial, Garcia testified that he had been living with his
wife, his wife's aunt, and child. Only three days prior
to the traffic stop, his wife's aunt had passed away.
Garcia explained that the cylinder container was only in his
possession because that morning he had been cleaning out the
bedroom of his wife's recently deceased Aunt, and he had
found the container. He believed it could contain pills, but
Garcia never looked inside the container. He had picked it up
to keep it out of reach from his young son. Contrary to this
account, Officer Robinett testified that after he found the
pill inside the container Garcia voluntarily stated that the
pill was his " narcotic for pain." (Tr. at 29.)
There were no other testifying witnesses.
both the State and Defense rested, defense counsel conceded
to the fact that Garcia was driving without a license. Then,
the trial court returned to the issue of whether the cylinder
container should be suppressed, noting that the Robinson case
seemed to be " on point." (Tr. at 44.) The defense
argued that the contents of the container was not obviously
contraband, there was no concern for officer safety, no
exigent circumstances, and a warrant could have been obtained
if the police wanted to examine the contents of the
court denied the motion to suppress the container, finding
Robinson controlling. Garcia was found guilty of possessing a
controlled substance and driving while never receiving a
license. Garcia was sentenced to 180 days in Marion County
jail with 176 days suspended.
appealed, asserting that the search of the container was
outside the scope of a permissible search incident to arrest
and was unreasonable under Article 1, Section 11 of the
Indiana Constitution. The Court of Appeals agreed with
Garcia. Garcia v. State, 25 N.E.3d 786 (Ind.Ct.App.
2015). In reaching this decision, the court applied the
Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 361 (Ind.
2005), factors " to the search of the container."
Id. at 790. The court reasoned that the degree of
suspicion that a criminal violation had occurred was low,
both arguments about the degree of intrusion were
meritorious, and the need of law enforcement was also low
given that there was no concern for officer safety or
suspicion of criminal activity. Id. Thus, it was
unreasonable to open the container found in Garcia's
pocket during a search incident to arrest. Id. at
791. The pill was inadmissible, and Garcia's conviction
for class D felony possession of a schedule III controlled
substance was reversed. Id.
Court granted the State's petition for transfer, thereby
vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. Ind. Appellate Rule
58(A). We affirm the trial court's denial of Garcia's
motion to suppress. We hold that the search of the container
found on Garcia's person was within the scope of a ...