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Randall v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 26, 2018

Scott Randall, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Clark Rogers, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G25-1607-F6-29473

          Attorneys for Appellant Ruth Johnson Deborah Markisohn Rory Gallagher Marion County Public Defender Indianapolis,

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Caryn N. Szyper Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis

          Robb, Judge.

          Case Summary and Issues

          [¶1] Scott Randall brings this interlocutory appeal from the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence resulting from a police officer's observations while conducting a welfare check. The trial court concluded the welfare check was supported by the community caretaking function. Randall now appeals presenting three issues which we restate as: (1) whether the trial court erroneously applied the community caretaking function; (2) whether Randall's seizure was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11, of the Indiana Constitution; and (3) whether Randall's statements were made in violation of Miranda. Concluding the trial court erroneously applied the community caretaking function but that Randall's seizure was reasonable under both the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11 pursuant to the emergency aid doctrine, and that Randall's statements were not made in violation of Miranda, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History[1]

          [¶2] Around 9:00 p.m. on July 29, 2016, Deputy Ashley Rose, a special deputy of the Marion County Sheriff's Office performing off-duty security work for St. Vincent's Hospital, was patrolling the same-day surgery parking lot when he observed a man sitting in the driver's seat of a black Ford Focus with the driver's door open and ignition off. The man, later identified as Randall, "appeared to be leaning forward over the steering wheel" or "slumped over." Transcript, Volume 1 at 10-11.

         [¶3] Deputy Rose decided to conduct a "welfare check"[2] and proceeded to pull behind Randall's car while activating his "overhead takedown lights."[3] Id. at 10. As soon as Deputy Rose put his car in park, "Randall abruptly exited his vehicle and started walking toward my vehicle at a fast pace." Id. at 10. Deputy Rose ordered Randall back to his car and Randall obliged, returning to the driver's seat of his car. Deputy Rose then approached Randall's car and began speaking with him while the driver's door was still open. During this time, Deputy Rose observed that Randall was speaking quickly, "sweating very intensely, " and that he began "reaching around the car very nervously." Id. at 12. Deputy Rose also observed a "folded square of aluminum foil" on the dashboard of the car, which he believed to be consistent with narcotic use. Id.

         [¶4] Suspecting drugs were in the car, Deputy Rose attempted to "find out what else would be in the vehicle that would be paraphernalia or narcotics related." Id. at 14. Specifically, Deputy Rose told Randall that he "had experience and I asked him what else in the vehicle he would not want a canine officer to find." Id. at 17. Randall admitted that he had a marijuana pipe, and Deputy Rose then instructed him to exit his vehicle. After Randall refused and began raising his voice, another officer who had arrived on scene activated his taser and pointed it at Randall while Deputy Rose placed Randall's left wrist in a wrist lock.

[Randall] began crying immediately and stated it's in the door, it's in the door. And so I had to, you know, ask him what are you talking about. And he said that there was meth in the door. And I looked to the left and clearly in plain view in the door in the pocket I could see a clear plastic baggie which had a white powdery substance in it.

Id. at 14-15. Randall was detained, placed in handcuffs, and seated nearby while a search of the vehicle revealed methamphetamine and two marijuana pipes. Because Deputy Rose had no further questions to ask Randall once he was in custody, he "did not feel Miranda was required" and therefore, Randall "was not read Miranda that night." Id. at 16.

         [¶5] Randall was subsequently charged with possession of methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony, and two counts of possession of paraphernalia, both Class C misdemeanors. Randall moved to suppress the evidence against him and the trial court denied his motion after a hearing, concluding:

In this case, Officer Rose approached the Defendant for the purpose of a welfare check, under his community caretaking function, which allows for a seizure of the Defendant as long as it reasonably takes to assess his wellbeing (as well as to provide aid if necessary). Based on Officer Rose's testimony, he did not have his concern for the Defendant's wellbeing alleviated by the Defendant exiting his vehicle, ordering the Defendant to return to his vehicle for officer safety and then approaching - arguably a seizure. Additionally, there are no facts alleged to suggest that Officer Rose had any reasonable suspicion of a crime - he stated that he saw a man slumped over his steering wheel and excitedly exit his vehicle. Even if Officer Rose might have had a slight suspicion that the Defendant had taken an illegal substance to cause his incapacitated state, the objective reasoning of checking on someone who clearly looks distressed, as well as the fact that someone in an incapacitated state in a hospital parking lot could have easily been caused by numerous other reasons, more than outweighs such suspicion. More importantly, public need and interest (i.e., we want Officer Rose to check on the wellbeing of someone slumped over a steering wheel, and we do not want him to prejudge the situation because he sees the person simply exit his vehicle - assuming a person is fine seconds after being incapacitated and not possibly still suffering from the effects of whatever caused the incapacity could be tragic) significantly outweigh the minimal intrusion upon the privacy of the Defendant in this case (i.e., having to return to his vehicle and briefly talk with Officer Rose about his wellbeing).
After reviewing the totality of the circumstances, balancing the interests, and determining reasonableness, the Court finds that Officer Rose acted reasonably and was justified in ordering the Defendant to return to his vehicle and approaching the vehicle to talk with the Defendant.

Appellant's Appendix Volume II at 52.

          [¶6] Randall filed a petition to certify the trial court's order for interlocutory appeal and for a stay of the proceedings, which the trial court granted on July 11, 2017. This court accepted jurisdiction on September 18, 2017.

          Discussion and Decision

         I. Standard of Review

         [¶7] We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress in a manner similar to other sufficiency matters. Taylor v. State, 69 N.E.3d 502, 505 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017).

The record must disclose substantial evidence of probative value supporting the trial court's decision. We do not reweigh the evidence. We consider conflicting evidence most favorable to the trial court's ruling, but unlike other sufficiency matters, we must also consider undisputed evidence favorable to the defendant.

Id. (internal citations omitted). Where, as here, an appellant's challenge to such a ruling is premised on a claimed constitutional violation, we review the issue de novo because it raises clear questions of law. Guilmette v. State, 14 N.E.3d 38, 40-41 (Ind. 2014). We may affirm the trial court's ruling if it is sustainable on any legal basis in the record, even though it was not the reason that the trial court enunciated. Scott v. State, 883 N.E.2d 147, 152 (Ind.Ct.App. 2008).

         II. Seizure

         [¶8] The Fourth Amendment to the United States ...

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