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Roy v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 21, 2017

Jonathan Kent Roy, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Vanderburgh Circuit Court. The Honorable Kelli E. Fink, Magistrate. Trial Court Cause No. 82C01-1606-F5-3289

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Yvette M. LaPlante Keating & LaPlante, LLP Evansville, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Laura R. Anderson Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Darden, Senior Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Jonathan Kent Roy appeals the trial court's denial of his Petition for Return of Property, in which he asked the court to order the State to return a handgun to his mother. We reverse and remand.

         Issue

         [¶2] Roy raises one issue, which we restate as: whether the trial court erred in denying Roy's petition.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] On June 4, 2016, police officers were dispatched to investigate a reported break-in at a commercial building. One of the officers looked in a window and saw Roy sitting on an air mattress, tending to a cut on his leg. As the officer watched, Roy picked up and then hid a handgun. When another officer knocked on the door, Roy grabbed the gun and ran to another part of the building before returning to his original location. The officers entered the building and took Roy into custody. They found the handgun, a .357 magnum silver Colt Trooper Mark III revolver bearing serial number L6744, in a backpack. Later, an officer searched for information about the handgun in an online database, which indicated that a handgun bearing serial number L6744 had been reported stolen in Texas in 1991.

         [¶4] The State charged Roy with burglary, a Level 5 felony; theft of a firearm, a Level 6 felony; and carrying a handgun without a license, a Class A misdemeanor. Roy and the State executed a plea agreement, pursuant to which Roy pleaded guilty to criminal trespass, a Class A misdemeanor, and carrying a handgun without a license, a Class A misdemeanor. The court accepted the plea agreement and imposed a sentence of time served.

         [¶5] On September 15, 2016, Roy filed a Petition for Return of Property, requesting the court to order the return of the handgun to him or his designee. The court held an evidentiary hearing on December 15, 2016. During the hearing, Roy requested the court to order the return of the handgun to his mother, asserting she was the rightful owner and had loaned the handgun to him. He further claimed the handgun had originally belonged to his father since the 1980s, and his father had died approximately seven years earlier. The court concluded that Roy's mother was not the rightful owner and denied Roy's petition.[1] This appeal followed.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶6] Roy argues the court's decision is unsupported by the evidence and should be reversed. A person seeking the return of property seized by the State during an investigation must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is the rightful owner of the property. Tracy v. State, 655 N.E.2d 1232, 1236 (Ind.Ct.App. 1995), trans. denied. Upon review of the denial of a motion for return of property, we will affirm unless the decision is clearly erroneous and cannot be sustained on any legal theory supported by the evidence. Barany v. State, 54 N.E.3d 386, 387 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016), trans. denied, cert. denied. Statutes that relate to search and seizure must be strictly construed in favor of the constitutional right of the people. Williams v. State, 952 N.E.2d 317, 319 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011) (quotation omitted).

         [¶7] The parties agree that this case is governed by Indiana Code section 35-47-3-2 (2014). That statute provides, in relevant part:

(b) Firearms shall be returned to the rightful owner at once following final disposition of the cause if a return has not already occurred under the terms of IC 35-33-5. If the rightful ownership is not known the law enforcement agency holding the firearm shall make a reasonable attempt to ascertain the rightful ownership and cause the return of the firearm. However, nothing in this chapter shall be construed as requiring the return of firearms to rightful owners who have been convicted for the misuse of firearms. ...

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