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Bowman v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 16, 2017

Robert Bowman, Tommy Maurry, and Jacob Murphy, et al., Appellants-Respondents,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Petitioner

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Marc T. Rothenberg, Judge Trial Court Cause Nos. 49G02-1602-MI-4868 49G02-1602-MI-4926

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS Gary M. Selig Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Frances Barrow Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAKER, JUDGE.

         [¶1] Two parcels being shipped from one state to another caught the attention of a detective. The only articulated reasons for suspicion were: the parcels were being shipped to California; they were sent priority overnight; they were heavily taped; and they were each sent to the same recipient. After a K-9 unit gave positive alerts on both parcels, a search warrant was obtained. The only thing inside the parcels was cash, which was seized by the State as proceeds of drug trafficking. None of the individuals have ever been investigated for or charged with any crimes in connection with this case. The State now seeks to turn the seized cash over to the federal government.

         [¶2] Jacob Murphy, Robert Bowman, and Tommy Maurry (collectively, the Appellants) appeal the trial court's order granting the State's motion to transfer approximately $30, 000 to the United States. The Appellants argue that the seizure of the money exceeded the scope of the search warrants, meaning that the seizure was unlawful and the money may not be turned over to the federal government. We agree, and reverse and remand with instructions to order the return of the money to the Appellants.

         Facts

         [¶3] On November 20, 2015, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Detective Brian Thorla was visually inspecting parcels at a local shipping company. Several parcels came to the detective's attention, including the two that are at issue in this case. One parcel was sent by Bowman in Illinois to Murphy in California; the second was sent by Maurry in Illinois to Murphy in California. Appellants' App. Vol. II p. 17, 23. The parcels drew Detective Thorla's attention because they were paid for priority overnight, heavily taped, and addressed to the same recipient in California, which is known by law enforcement "to be a source state for the importation/exportation of controlled substances . . . ." Id. Detective Thorla conducted a dog sniff of the parcels; the K-9 unit gave positive alerts on both parcels, indicating the presence of the odor of controlled substances.

         [¶4] Detective Thorla sought and received search warrants for both parcels. The warrants authorized law enforcement to open and search the parcels "for controlled substances, records of drug trafficking, and proceeds of drug trafficking." Id. at 20, 26. Law enforcement opened and searched both parcels. They found no controlled substances or records of drug trafficking, but one parcel contained currency in the amount of $15, 000 and the other contained currency in the amount of $15, 300. Law enforcement seized the currency. No criminal charges were ever brought against any of the Appellants with respect to this matter, nor is there any indication that the Appellants have been the subject of any criminal investigation by Indiana or federal law enforcement authorities.

         [¶5] On February 11, 2016, the State filed motions to transfer the currency at issue to the United States.[1] The Appellants objected, arguing that the seizure of the currency exceeded the scope of the search warrant. Following a hearing, on June 7, 2016, the trial court issued an order granting the State's motions. In pertinent part, the trial court found as follows:

2. The appearance of the parcels, the excessive taping, the type of shipping and payment, the multiple parcels to the same destination in a known import state of controlled substances, and the positive K9 alert to the presence of the odor of controlled substances and all reasonable inferences drawn there from is probable cause to authorize the seizure of "proceeds of drug trafficking" located during a search of the parcel.
3. The specificity requirement regarding the items to be seized in a search warrant does not require an exact description or an itemized list of items but rather must describe the nature of the items to be seized and must be specific enough to remove discretion from the executing officers.
***
5. There is probable cause to justify the seizure of United States Currency located in the parcels as proceeds of drug trafficking ...

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