from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable John Christ,
Commissioner Trial Court Cause No. 49G14-1510-F6-37975
Attorney for Appellant Deborah Markisohn Marion County Public
Defender Agency Appellate Division Indianapolis, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Eric P. Babbs Deputy Attorney General
In this interlocutory appeal, Kevin Dowdy appeals the trial
court's order denying his motion to suppress evidence. He
raises two issues which we consolidate and restate as whether
the court erred in denying his motion to suppress. We affirm.
and Procedural History
On October 21, 2015, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer
Cameron Taylor was conducting traffic patrol and "just
running license plates" while he was driving. Transcript
Volume II at 8. He ran a license plate on a vehicle and the
status for the registration plate "came up expired"
on his mobile data terminal. Id. at 12. The return
for information from the BMV included three or four pages,
and Officer Taylor's computer terminal screen showed that
the issue date was October 21, 2014, and the expiration date
was October 21, 2015. He activated his lights and initiated a
traffic stop because of the expired registration.
Officer Taylor approached the vehicle and spoke to the
occupants including Dowdy who was in the front passenger
seat. Officer Taylor explained the reason for the stop, asked
the driver for her driver's license and the vehicle
registration, and also asked Dowdy if he "wouldn't
mind giving [him] his identification." Id. at
14. Officer Taylor received their identifications or wrote
down their names and dates of birth, ran the occupants'
information, and discovered that there were warrants for
Dowdy's arrest. He conducted a search of Dowdy and
discovered a "receipt with pills in it" in his
pocket. Id. at 16.
On October 26, 2015, the State charged Dowdy with possession
of a narcotic drug as a level 6 felony. On May 2, 2016, Dowdy
filed a motion to suppress evidence and argued that the stop,
detention, arrest, and seizure of the contraband was illegal.
On July 26, 2016, the court held a suppression hearing.
Officer Taylor testified that the return for information from
the BMV is four pages and that:
[T]here's a status that - it says status and then it will
say active, inactive, suspended, or expired. I just look for
that spot because I'm just - you know, I'm not trying
to read every little detail about - I don't care when the
plate was issued. I don't necessarily care when it was
expired. I just look to see that it's expired according
to the BMV because that's where I get my returns from.
Id. at 10-11. When asked if at any point it came to
his attention that the license plate's expiration date
was the same as the date of the actual traffic stop, he
answered: "Somebody - I thought of it. I think it stood
out to me obviously when I went to write the report."
Id. at 15. He also indicated that someone who has a
warrant takes priority over an expired registration. On
cross-examination, Officer Taylor testified that his computer
terminal screen showed that the issue date was October 21,
2014, and the expiration date was October 21, 2015. On
redirect examination, he testified that the status for the
vehicle registration was expired.
On September 15, 2016, the court held a hearing and denied
Dowdy's motion to suppress. The court stated:
After reviewing the case law and the facts, I do find that
the officer's behavior was reasonable; that he did rely
upon the computer transmission from the Bureau of Motor
Vehicles that indicated that the license plate and
registration . . . were expired.
What I'm seeing - what my recollection that the officer
relied on was not just the dates but the submission from the
Bureau of Motor Vehicles that the license was, in fact - that
the registration was, in fact, expired.
I don't know if was [sic] a mistake of law on his part,
but I think that there's a difficulty interpretation - of
interpreting that law.
I tried to find what the code would state as to the
expiration date and when that would - when that would happen
and when registrations would expire, and the only statute is
the statute submitted by Defense that, you know, speaks to
when the expiration date is on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday
time when the license branches would be closed.
I think it would require the officer to make some sort of
legal interpretation. I don't know that it's
automatically clear of what the expiration date would be
based on that statute when it happened in this case on a
I think the officer's behavior was reasonable. I
don't think that it is inherently unreasonable. I
don't think it was a mistake of law or ignorance of the
law. I think he relied reasonably upon the Bureau of Motor
Vehicle's communication that the license plates and
registration were expired on that vehicle.
Mr. Dowdy had a warrant for his arrest. And I think
everything found thereafter flows from the warrant and the
search once he's taken into custody on that warrant. So I
find the officer's behavior reasonable.
Id. at 32-33. Dowdy now brings this interlocutory
The issue is whether the trial court erred in denying
Dowdy's motion to suppress. The admission of evidence is
entrusted to the trial court's sound discretion.
Robinson v. State, 5 N.E.3d 362, 365 (Ind. 2014).
See also Kelly v. State, 997 N.E.2d 1045, 1050 (Ind.
2013) (addressing a denial of a motion to suppress and
holding that the admission of evidence is a matter entrusted
to the trial court's sound discretion). "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, 5 N.E.3d at 365.
"We defer to the trial court's findings of fact
unless they are clearly erroneous, and we will not reweigh
the evidence." Id. "When the trial
court's denial of a defendant's motion to suppress
concerns the constitutionality of a search or seizure,
however, it presents a question of law, and we address that
question de novo." Id.
Dowdy argues that the registration was valid until midnight
on October 21, 2015, and that his rights under the Fourth
Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1,
Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution were violated.
The Fourth ...