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State v. Brown

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 2, 2017

State of Indiana, Appellant (Plaintiff below),
v.
David Brown, Appellee (Defendant below).

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49F07-1307-CM-043945 The Honorable Clayton A. Graham, Judge The Honorable Steven Rubick, Magistrate

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A05-1506-CR-00752

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE John L. Tompkins Brown Tompkins Lorry & Mastrian Indianapolis, Indiana

          David, Justice.

         This case involves whether the brief detainment of defendant as part of a sobriety checkpoint is custodial so as to trigger Miranda protection. We hold that such detainment is no more custodial than a routine traffic or Terry stop, and thus, defendant was not entitled to Miranda warnings at the sobriety checkpoint.

          Facts and Procedural History

         In July 2013, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police set up a field sobriety checkpoint to apprehend impaired drivers. Officers set up the checkpoint at the back of a well-lit Arby's parking lot and were instructed that they had no more than two (2) minutes to discern impairment before they had to release the motorists.

         At some point, Defendant, David Brown, who was driving a motorcycle, entered the checkpoint. Officer Winter identified himself and asked Brown for his license. He observed that Brown had red, watery eyes, struggled to get his license out, had slurred speech and smelled like alcohol. Officer Winter asked Brown if he had been drinking and Brown admitted that he had. The officer administered some field sobriety tests, and ultimately, arrested Brown.

         Brown was charged with Class C misdemeanor operating while intoxicated and Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of at least .08 but less than .15 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

         During a bench trial, the State presented testimony and evidence about the sobriety checkpoint, generally, and about the encounter with Brown. When one of the officers testified that Brown had admitted he had been drinking, Brown's counsel requested to ask the officer some preliminary questions. Counsel asked the officer whether the officer Mirandized Brown prior to asking him if he had been drinking, and the officer responded no. The officer further indicated that Brown was not free to go when that question was asked and that the question was asked as part of an investigation into possible impaired drivers.

         Brown's counsel then objected to the officer's testimony about him asking Brown if he had been drinking and Brown's response based on a Miranda violation. The State argued in response that a Miranda warning was not necessary because the checkpoint was a traffic stop and not a custodial situation.

         The trial court instructed the parties to brief this issue and agreed to bifurcate the trial. After reviewing the parties' briefs, the trial court entered an order granting Brown's motion to suppress. The court's order suppressed "any statements by [Brown], as well as any evidence obtained thereafter." (App. 66.)

         Thereafter, the State filed a motion to correct error, arguing no Miranda violation occurred, and even if it did, the other evidence (e.g., field sobriety test and Breathalyzer results) should not have been excluded. The trial court denied that motion, and the State appealed.

         In an unpublished decision, the Court of Appeals, sua sponte, determined that the State had no statutory authority to appeal because Brown never filed a written motion to suppress, the State's brief did not explicitly address its statutory authority to appeal, the order suppressing the evidence was issued during trial (and thus, after jeopardy attached) and that due to the "unusual and uncertain" procedural posture, the State could not bring the appeal. State v. Brown, 2016 WL 1276576 at **7, 10-12 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). It therefore dismissed the ...


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