Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Weathers v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 17, 2016

Robert Weathers, Appellant-Defendant
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Shatrese M. Flowers, Judge The Honorable David M. Seiter, Commissioner Trial Court Cause No. 49G20-1504-F5-13181

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Timothy J. O’Connor O’Connor & Auersch Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Michael Gene Worden Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Bradford, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [1] On April 15, 2015, a Marion County Sheriff's Deputy initiated a traffic stop after observing that the expiration date on a vehicle's license plate was not visible. The vehicle in question was being driven by Appellant-Defendant Robert Weathers. During the traffic stop, it was discovered that Weathers did not have a valid driver's license. Weathers was placed under arrest for driving without a license. The deputy eventually decided to impound the vehicle in question after Weathers failed to find someone to retrieve the vehicle. The deputy then completed a warrantless inventory search of the vehicle, during which the deputy recovered a handgun.

         [2] The next day, Weathers was charged with Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended. The handgun charge was subsequently elevated to a Level 5 felony by virtue of Weathers's prior felony conviction. The handgun was admitted into evidence at trial, over Weathers's objection. Weathers was subsequently found guilty of both Level 5 carrying a handgun without a license and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended.

         [3] On appeal, Weathers contends that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the handgun into evidence, arguing that the warrantless inventory search conducted by the deputy was unreasonable and thus violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Weathers alternatively contends that even if the handgun was properly admitted into evidence, the evidence was insufficient to sustain his Level 5 felony conviction. Concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the handgun at trial and that the evidence is sufficient to sustain Weathers's conviction for Level 5 felony possession of a handgun without a license, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [4] On April 15, 2015, Marion County Sheriff's Deputy Osnel Andre was patrolling the west side of Indianapolis when he spotted a black Chevy Trailblazer ("the vehicle"). Deputy Andre observed that the expiration date for the vehicle's registration was obscured. After following the vehicle for a short time, and not being able to see the expiration date on the license plate, Deputy Andre initiated a traffic stop. The vehicle stopped about sixteen to eighteen inches from the curb. Deputy Andre made contact with the driver, who was subsequently identified as Weathers, and asked for his license and registration. Weathers provided Deputy Andre with the vehicle's registration but informed Deputy Andre that he did not have a driver's license. Deputy Andre reviewed the information provided by Weathers and determined that the vehicle was not registered to Weathers and that Weathers's driver's license was suspended. Deputy Andre then placed Weathers under arrest for driving while suspended.

         [5] After placing Weathers under arrest, Deputy Andre gave Weathers, who had been alone in the vehicle, the opportunity to find someone to retrieve the vehicle. Weathers was unable to do so within the time provided by Deputy Andre. Deputy Andre thereafter decided that it was necessary to impound the vehicle. He then called for backup and asked Weathers whether there was "anything in [the vehicle] that (Inaudible) get anything out of the [vehicle] (Inaudible) -- guns and drugs in the [vehicle] before I seek to search the [vehicle] before I impound the vehicle[.]" Tr. p. 19. Weathers responded that there was a handgun inside the vehicle.[1]

         [6] Deputy Andre approached the vehicle, looked inside, and observed the barrel of the handgun located where Weathers had indicated, i.e., between the driver's seat and the center console. After securing the handgun, Deputy Andre completed a warrantless inventory search of the vehicle. He found nothing of value in the vehicle other than the handgun and the vehicle's registration. Deputy Andre subsequently learned that Weathers did not have a license for the handgun that was recovered from the vehicle.

         [7] On April 16, 2015, Appellee-Plaintiff the State of Indiana ("the State") charged Weathers with Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended. The State subsequently sought to have the handgun charge elevated to a Level 5 felony by virtue of Weathers's prior felony conviction. Weathers waived his right to a jury trial.

         [8] The trial court conducted a bench trial on November 12, 2015. During trial, Weathers objected to and moved to suppress all evidence stemming from the warrantless search of the vehicle. This included the handgun which, again, was recovered during the search. The trial court initially denied Weathers's motion to suppress, but subsequently changed its ruling and took the matter under advisement. On December 8, 2015, the trial court denied Weathers's motion to suppress and found him guilty of Level 5 felony carrying a handgun without a license and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended. The trial court sentenced Weathers to a term of five years, with two of those years suspended. This appeal follows.

         Discussion and Decision

         [9] Weathers raises two contentions on appeal. First, Weathers contends that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting certain evidence at trial. Alternatively, Weathers contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his Level 5 felony carrying a handgun without a license conviction. We will discuss each contention in turn.

         I. Admission of Evidence

         A. Standard of Review

         [10] Weathers contends that the handgun recovered from the vehicle should not have been admitted into evidence because it was discovered in violation of his Fourth Amendment Rights. Although Weathers argues on appeal that the trial court should have granted his motion to suppress the handgun, Weathers appeals following the conclusion of his trial. We will therefore consider his appeal as a request to review the trial court's decision to admit the handgun into evidence at trial. Carpenter v. State, 18 N.E.3d 998, 1001 (Ind. 2014) (citing Guilmette v. State, 14 N.E.3d 38, 40 (Ind. 2014)).

The trial court has broad discretion to rule on the admissibility of evidence. [Clark v. State, 994 N.E.2d 252, 259-60 (Ind. 2013)]. We review its rulings "for abuse of that discretion and reverse only when admission is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances and the error affects a party's substantial rights." [Id. at 260]. But when an appellant's challenge to such a ruling is predicated on an argument that impugns the constitutionality of the search or seizure of the evidence, it raises a question of law, and we consider that question de novo. Kelly v. State, 997 N.E.2d 1045, 1050 (Ind. 2013).

Guilmette, 14 N.E.3d at 40-41. Further, when reviewing a trial court's ruling on the admissibility of evidence obtained from an allegedly illegal search, we do not reweigh the evidence but defer to the trial court's factual determinations unless clearly erroneous. Hansbrough v. State, 49 N.E.3d 1112, 1114-15 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016) (citing Meredith v. State, 906 N.E.2d 867, 869 (Ind. 2009)), trans. denied. "We view conflicting evidence most favorable to the ruling, and we consider 'afresh any legal question of the constitutionality of a search and seizure.'" Id. (quoting Meredith, 906 N.E.2d at 869).

         B. The Fourth Amendment

         [11] The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects "[t]he right of the people to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.