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
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.
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
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.
and Procedural History
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Admission of Evidence
Standard of Review
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).
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
protects "[t]he right of the people to ...