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Wilson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 22, 2018

Carl T. Wilson, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Shatrese Flowers, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G20-1609-F2-35293

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Darren Bedwell Marion County Public Defender Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Tyler Banks Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          MAY, JUDGE.

         [¶1] Carl T. Wilson brings an interlocutory appeal of the pretrial denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Wilson argues the evidence should have been suppressed because the search occurred after police officers arrested him without probable cause. We reverse.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On September 6, 2016, a resident of a duplex made a 911 call complaining of a car parked in the yard on the unoccupied side of the duplex.[1] She indicated the car may be gray and she did not recognize it. Her son had approached the car, but the occupants did not respond when he knocked on the window.

         [¶3] Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officers Joshua Stayton and Jeremy Miller responded to the 911 call. Officer Stayton had patrolled the area for "roughly three years, " (Tr. at 5), and knew the area was known for prostitution and drugs. Officer Stayton described the area as "a high crime area." (Id.) Officer Stayton located a "brownish, grayish color" car in an apartment complex parking lot located on the same block as the 911 caller's residence. (Id. at 16.) Shining a spotlight into the car, Officer Stayton saw two people inside the vehicle. Officer Miller arrived soon thereafter.

         [¶4] As the officers approached the car, Officer Stayton recognized the passenger as someone with a history of "prostitution and drug use." (Id. at 7.) A man, later identified as Wilson, exited the car but immediately bent back into it and reached toward the center console. Because of his knowledge of crime in the area and Wilson's movements inside the vehicle, Officer Stayton drew his weapon and ordered Wilson to show his hands. Wilson complied. When asked if he was hiding anything, Wilson replied, "[T]here is nothing in the vehicle, and [officers] could search the vehicle." (Id. at 9.) The officers patted Wilson down and handcuffed him "for [officer] safety." (Id.)

         [¶5] After handcuffing Wilson, the officers asked Wilson "[a]t least twice" if they could search the vehicle and he said they could. (Id. at 15.) The officers took Wilson "maybe twenty feet" away from the car after he was handcuffed. (Id. at 34.) The officers did not give Wilson Pirtle[2] or Miranda[3] advisements. The officers also removed Wilson's passenger from the car and handcuffed her. Then they took turns searching the vehicle. Officer Stayton did not find anything in the car but found "a bag of marijuana . . . located towards the rear driver side tire, approximately two feet away from the vehicle." (Id. at 11.) Officer Miller searched the car "to make sure that the first officer don't - -doesn't miss anything[.]" (Id. at 27.) After popping open a loose part of the center console, Officer Miller found "a bag of something" which he believed to be drugs. (Id. at 25.) Officer Stayton retrieved the bag and found it contained heroin and methamphetamine.

         [¶6] The State charged Wilson with Level 2 felony dealing in a narcotic drug, [4] Level 3 felony possession of a narcotic drug, [5] Level 2 felony dealing in methamphetamine, [6] and Level 3 felony possession of methamphetamine.[7] On January 22, 2017, Wilson filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the drugs retrieved during the search.[8] Wilson alleged the officers' actions violated his state and federal constitutional rights to be free of illegal search and seizure. After a hearing and subsequent briefing, on March 28, 2017, the trial court denied Wilson's motion without findings of fact or conclusions of law.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶7] Our standard of review for the denial of a motion to suppress evidence is similar to that of other sufficiency issues. Jackson v. State, 785 N.E.2d 615, 618 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003), reh'g denied, trans. denied. We determine whether there is substantial evidence of probative value to support denial of the motion. Id. We do not reweigh the evidence, and we consider conflicting evidence in a light most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Id. However, the review of a denial of a motion to suppress is different from other sufficiency matters in that we must also consider uncontested evidence that is favorable to the defendant. Id. We review de novo a ruling on the constitutionality of a search or seizure. Campos v. State, 885 N.E.2d 590, 596 (Ind. 2008).

         [¶8] Wilson asserts his Fourth Amendment right to be free of illegal search and seizure was violated when the officers "detained [him] without reasonable suspicion, and arrested him without probable cause when they handcuffed him at gunpoint."[9] (Appellant's Br. at 13.) He asserts the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the search. The State counters Wilson was not under ...

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