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
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.
and Procedural History
[¶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.
Deputy Rose decided to conduct a "welfare
check" and proceeded to pull behind Randall's
car while activating his "overhead takedown
lights." 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.
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.
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
Standard of Review
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).
The Fourth Amendment to the United States ...