Doran J. Curry, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
from the Jackson Circuit Court The Honorable Richard W.
Poynter, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 36C01-1501-F2-1
Attorney for Appellant R. Patrick Magrath Alcorn Sage
Schwartz & Magrath, LLP
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Katherine M. Cooper Deputy Attorney General
A traffic stop on Indiana Interstate 65 was initiated to warn
a driver of the hazards of traveling too slowly in the fast
lane. The stop culminated with the discovery of 100 grams of
heroin secreted in the clothing of the passenger, Doran J.
Curry ("Curry"). Curry now appeals his convictions
and aggregate sentence for Dealing in Cocaine or a Narcotic
Drug, as a Level 2 felony,  and Resisting Law Enforcement, as
a Class A misdemeanor. We affirm.
[¶2] Curry presents three issues for
I. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by admitting
evidence obtained during a pat-down search conducted during a
II. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by
admitting evidence in violation of Indiana Evidence Rule
III. Whether Curry's sentence is inappropriate.
and Procedural History
On January 14, 2015, at around 1:47 p.m., Indiana State
Police Trooper James Wells ("Trooper Wells")
approached a vehicle in the left lane of southbound
Interstate 65 that was traveling below the posted speed limit
of 70 miles per hour. Before the vehicle yielded the lane,
Trooper Wells clocked its speed and determined that it was
traveling at approximately 63 miles per hour. Trooper Wells
turned on his lights and initiated a traffic stop based upon
his belief that slower-moving vehicles were required to
remain in the right-hand lane of the roadway.
The driver, Chastity Westmoreland ("Westmoreland"),
pulled the vehicle onto the berm of the roadway yet close to
the white line. To avoid standing in the roadway, Trooper
Wells approached the passenger side. He requested
Westmoreland's driver's license and addressed Curry,
who had his eyes closed: "is it bright? Did you just
wake up?" (Ex. 2, pg. 11.) Curry responded,
"Yeah." (Ex. 2, pg. 11.) He handed Trooper Wells a
rental agreement for the vehicle in lieu of its registration.
Trooper Wells verbally warned Westmoreland that she could
drive slowly, so long as she stayed in the right lane, and he
expressed his fear that "she's gonna get run
over." (Ex. 2, pg. 11.) Concluding that he could not
safely stand next to the driver's door to complete his
duties, Trooper Wells asked Westmoreland to "come on
back" to his vehicle for the check of her license. (Ex.
2, pg. 11.) Westmoreland acknowledged that she had been
traveling too slowly, but assured the officer that she had a
valid driver's license and no legal problems. In response
to Trooper Wells' inquiries, Westmoreland advised that
she and Curry had been to Indianapolis to visit their
grandmother, they left the day before, Curry had assisted
with the driving, and he was the person who had rented the
vehicle. She volunteered the information that she had to get
back to work, necessitating a short trip. Trooper Wells
advised Westmoreland that her license "looked good"
and inquired about Curry's employment. (Ex. 2, pg. 14.)
After learning that Curry was Westmoreland's unemployed
cousin, Trooper Wells exited his vehicle and re-approached
the rental vehicle.
Trooper Wells confirmed with Curry that he had rented the
vehicle. He asked for identification, which Curry produced.
Trooper Wells asked Curry about the purpose and timing of his
travel. Curry responded that he and Westmoreland, his cousin,
had been visiting their grandmother. However, when Curry was
asked when he saw his grandmother, he "froze, "
broke eye contact, and began to breathe heavily. (Tr. Vol.
III, pg. 117.) After five inquiries, Curry responded
"what did she say." (Tr. Vol. III, pg. 117.) Due to
Curry's nervousness and evasiveness, Trooper Wells
decided to call for backup.
Trooper Wells returned to his police vehicle and reached for
his microphone just as Trooper Randall Miller ("Trooper
Miller"), who had been patrolling nearby in his canine
unit, happened upon the stopped vehicle. Trooper Wells
signaled that Trooper Miller should "run the dog"
and then contacted the State Police post to obtain criminal
record checks on Westmoreland and Curry. (Tr. Vol. III, pg.
119.) Trooper Miller conducted a canine sniff and the dog,
certified for detection of certain drugs, alerted at the rear
wheel well on the driver's side. Trooper Miller reported
the alert to Trooper Wells and they agreed that Trooper
Miller should "get [Curry] out" while Trooper Wells
was waiting for criminal history and warrant information.
(Tr. Vol. III, pg. 121.)
Trooper Miller approached Curry and advised that the police
canine had alerted. Curry repeated "the canine
alerted" and began shaking. (Tr. Vol. III, pg. 77.)
Trooper Miller assessed Curry's demeanor as consistent
with "fight or flight" and he assisted Curry out of
the vehicle. (Tr. Vol. III, pg. 78.) Trooper Miller commanded
Curry to turn around and advised Curry that he would be
subjected to a "check for weapons" because the
"dog alerted on your car." (Tr. Vol. III, pg. 79,
Vol. II, pg. 99.) The trooper detected a large hard object
that he initially "thought [to be] a hand gun" and
tried to handcuff Curry. (Tr. Vol. III, pg. 80.) However,
Curry spun around and Trooper Miller fell to the ground.
Curry began to run.
Trooper Wells ran to assist Trooper Miller, commanding Curry
to stop. After Curry continued to run, Trooper Wells deployed
his taser. When Curry was subdued and on the ground, Trooper
Miller advised Westmoreland that Curry "had a bag of
dope in his crotch." (Tr. Vol. III, pg. 86.) Ultimately,
Curry was found to be in possession of 100 grams of heroin.
Westmoreland was released without being given a traffic
citation or written warning. Curry was arrested. The entire
incident took about ten minutes.
On January 26, 2015, the State charged Curry with Dealing in
Cocaine or a Narcotic Drug and Resisting Law Enforcement. The
State subsequently alleged Curry to be a habitual offender.
Curry filed a series of motions seeking to suppress evidence
obtained during the traffic stop. On December 13, 2016, the
trial court denied the motions. Curry also filed motions in
limine, seeking to exclude references to his past
incarceration and to exclude his statements related to
drug-dealing activities. The trial court preliminarily ruled
that references to incarceration would be inadmissible but
Curry's statements explaining his dealing activities
would not be excluded.
Curry was tried in a jury trial conducted on December 20 and
December 21, 2016. At trial, he objected - without success -
to the admission of evidence from the traffic stop and to the
admission of his incriminating statements. A jury convicted
Curry as charged and he admitted his status as a habitual
offender. Curry was sentenced to twenty-five years
imprisonment, enhanced by ten years, for his Dealing in
Cocaine conviction. He was sentenced to ten days imprisonment
for his Resisting Law Enforcement conviction. This appeal
[¶12] Curry has not, on appeal,
specifically challenged the legality of the initial traffic
stop. Rather, he focuses upon subsequent police conduct and
contends that the State garnered the evidence against him in
violation of his constitutional rightsby dual means: the
traffic stop was unreasonably prolonged to facilitate the
canine unit arrival and the pat-down was conducted without
reasonable suspicion that he was armed and dangerous. Curry
argues that the trial court abused its discretion in
admitting the challenged evidence at trial.
The trial court has broad discretion to rule on the
admissibility of evidence. Thomas v. State, 81
N.E.3d 621, 624 (Ind. 2017). Generally, evidentiary rulings
are reviewed for an abuse of discretion and reversed when
admission is clearly against the logic and effect of the
facts and circumstances. Id. However, when a
challenge to an evidentiary ruling is predicated on the
constitutionality of a search or seizure of evidence, it
raises a question of law that is reviewed de novo.
Id. The State has the burden to ...