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Pinner v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 24, 2016

Thomas Pinner, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Shatrese Flowers, Judge; The Honorable Peggy Hart, Commissioner Trial Court Cause No. 49G20-1503-F5-8548

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Michael R. Fisher Marion County Public Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Henry A. Flores, Jr. Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.


          MAY, JUDGE.

         [1] Thomas Pinner appeals the denial of his motion to suppress. As no reasonable suspicion justified the investigatory stop, we reverse.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [2] On February 20, 2015, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers Jason Palmer and George Stewart responded to a call from a cab driver regarding a passenger who dropped a handgun when exiting the cab at the Studio Movie Grill. The cab driver described the passenger as "a black male wearing a blue jacket [accompanied by] a black female with blonde hair." (App. at 13.) The driver indicated he was fearful of being robbed. Officer Palmer talked to the cab driver on the phone before attempting to locate the man. The driver left the scene before the officers arrived and gave no indication that a robbery had been attempted.

         [3] On entering the Studio Movie Grill, the officers saw a blonde-haired black woman walking away from Pinner, who matched the driver's description. Pinner was on a bench by himself inside the lobby of the theatre when the two officers walked up to him, stood in front of him, told him there was a report of a man with a gun, and asked if he had a gun on him. Pinner denied having a gun but was shuffling nervously and was hesitant to answer. Officer Palmer had Pinner stand. When Pinner stood up, Officer Palmer could see the butt of a gun in his front pocket. Officer Palmer secured the gun for police safety and detained Pinner. He learned Pinner did not have a license to carry a handgun and placed him under arrest.

         [4] The State charged Pinner with Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license enhanced to Level 5 felony due to prior commission of a felony.[1] Pinner filed a motion to suppress the evidence. The trial court held a hearing and then denied Pinner's motion. The trial court found, in accordance with the State's argument at the hearing, that the officers had reasonable suspicion to approach and question Pinner. Pinner filed a Petition to Certify an Order for Interlocutory Appeal, which the trial court granted. We accepted jurisdiction and now reverse.

         Discussion and Decision

         [5] Our standard of review for the denial of a motion to suppress evidence is similar to that of other sufficiency issues. Jackson v. State, 785 N.E.2d 615, 618 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003), reh'g denied, trans. denied. We determine whether there is substantial evidence of probative value to support denial of the motion. Id. We do not reweigh the evidence, and we consider conflicting evidence that is most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Id. But the review of a denial of a motion to suppress is different from other sufficiency matters in that we must also consider uncontested evidence that is favorable to the defendant. Id. We review de novo a ruling on the constitutionality of a search or seizure, but we give deference to a trial court's determination of the facts, which will not be overturned unless clearly erroneous. Campos v. State, 885 N.E.2d 590, 596 (Ind. 2008).

         [6] The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires law enforcement officials to obtain a valid warrant before conducting searches or seizures. When police conduct a search without a warrant, the State has the burden of proving that the search falls within an exception to the warrant requirement. Taylor v. State, 842 N.E.2d 327, 330 (Ind. 2006). A police officer may briefly detain a person without a warrant if, based on articulable facts and reasonable inferences, the officer believes criminal activity "may be afoot." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968).

         [7] The interaction between Pinner and the officers was an investigatory stop for which the officers did not have reasonable suspicion Pinner had engaged in or was about to engage in criminal activity. Therefore, the Fourth Amendment required the gun be suppressed.[2]

         Consensual Interaction or ...

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