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Jacobs v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 29, 2017

Jordan Jacobs, Appellant (Defendant below),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49G10-1509-CM-31258 The Honorable Linda Brown, Judge

          Attorneys for Appellant Ruth Ann Johnson Darren D. Bedwell Marion County Public Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Monika Prekopa Talbot Christina D. Pace Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Massa, Justice.

         Jordan Jacobs was found guilty of Class A misdemeanor possession of a handgun without a license, and appeals his conviction under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, contending the search was constitutionally impermissible. We agree, and reverse.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On August 31, 2015, there were multiple reports of shots fired by youths wearing red clothing, a known gang color, near an apartment complex and neighboring park in a "high crime" area of Indianapolis. Tr. at 11. In response, police focused additional attention on the area, and at around 2:00PM two days later in the park, Officer Terry Smith "observed several juveniles who looked like they should be in school, " which included Jacobs, age 18. Tr. at 7. Smith sat in an unmarked car and observed the group for "several hours", which also included "several adult males." Tr. at 7. Some members of the group were wearing red, but Jacobs was not, though at one point he had a red t-shirt slung over his left shoulder. They also observed a park ranger in a marked car patrol the area, at which point Jacobs and another individual quickly walked away, and then returned after the patrol car had left. At this point Smith called for backup to "assist [] in stopping them." Tr. at 8. When the additional marked police cars arrived, Jacobs and his companion again quickly walked away from the group; Officers Smith and Jeremiah Casavan pulled up near Jacobs, Smith got out of his car and ordered him to stop. Jacobs did not comply, and continued to walk away, at which point Officer Casavan exited his vehicle and both officers ordered Jacobs to the ground. Jacobs now complied; Officer Casavan handcuffed Jacobs while he was on the ground but "told him he was not under arrest." Tr. at 24. After Jacobs got off the ground, the outline of a handgun was clearly visible in his pocket, which Casavan removed.

         Jacobs was charged with one count of Class A misdemeanor possession of a handgun without a license, and at his bench trial objected to the testimony of Officers Smith and Casavan, and the admission of the handgun into evidence, on the grounds that the officers did not have reasonable suspicion to stop him under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The trial court denied the motion, found Jacobs guilty as charged, and sentenced him to one year probation. A divided panel of our Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that Jacobs' behavior in evading police in a high crime area was sufficient to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that crime was afoot, particularly since the officers reasonably believed "Jacobs was committing the status offense of truancy." Jacobs v. State, 62 N.E.3d 1253, 1261 n.3 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). We hereby grant Jacobs' petition to transfer and vacate the Court of Appeals' decision below. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

         Standard of Review

         Admission of evidence is generally left to the discretion of the trial court, and thus we review admissibility challenges for abuse of that discretion. Guilmette v. State, 14 N.E.3d 38, 40 (Ind. 2014). When, however, admissibility turns on questions of constitutionality relating to the search and seizure of that evidence, our review is de novo. Id. at 40-41. "We review a trial court's denial of a defendant's motion to suppress deferentially, construing conflicting evidence in the light most favorable to the ruling, but we will also consider any substantial and uncontested evidence favorable to the defendant." Robinson v. State, 5 N.E.3d 362, 365 (Ind. 2014) (citing Holder v. State, 847 N.E.2d 930, 935 (Ind. 2006)). Nevertheless, we defer to the trial court's factual determinations unless they are clearly erroneous. Meredith v. State, 906 N.E.2d 867, 869 (Ind. 2009).

         Police Lacked Reasonable Suspicion to Stop Jacobs Under the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment states that:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

U.S. Const. amend. IV. "Accordingly, a warrantless search or seizure is per se unreasonable, and the State bears the burden to show that one of the well-delineated exceptions to the warrant requirement applies." M.O. v. State, 63 N.E.3d 329, 331 (Ind. 2016) (internal quotations omitted). One of the most recognized such exceptions is derived from Terry v. Ohio, which permits a brief investigatory stop "where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot[.]" 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968). "When determining whether an officer had reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop, we consider whether the totality of the circumstances presented a particularized and objective basis for the officer's belief that the subject was engaged in criminal activity." State v. Keck, 4 N.E.3d 1180, 1184 (Ind. 2014) (internal quotations omitted). "[I]n order to pass constitutional muster, reasonable ...


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