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Carter v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 28, 2018

Kevin Shawn Carter, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Vanderburgh Circuit Court The Honorable Kelli E. Fink, Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 82C01-1612-F2-7290

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Yvette M. LaPlante KEATING & LAPLANTE, LLP Evansville, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Michael Gene Worden Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Bailey, Judge.

          Case Summary

         [¶1] A jury convicted Kevin Shawn Carter ("Carter") of Dealing in a Narcotic Drug, as a Level 2 felony, [1] and Dealing in Methamphetamine, as a Level 2 felony.[2]Thereafter, Carter admitted to being a habitual offender.[3] Carter now appeals.

         [¶2] We affirm.


         [¶3] Carter presents the following two restated issues:

I. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence obtained from a search of a cell phone because the underlying warrant was impermissibly general, allowing an exploratory search; and
II. Whether the trial court committed fundamental error by admitting testimony from an officer who opined that the amount of heroin seized was a dealer-level quantity.

         Facts and Procedural History[4]

         [¶4] After seeing a Ford Mustang cross the center line several times, Deputy Brandon Mattingly ("Deputy Mattingly") of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department conducted a traffic stop. Deputy Mattingly approached the vehicle and observed the front passenger-Carter-making furtive movements and appearing to place an item under his seat. Deputy Mattingly then spoke with the driver, Tiffani Colschen ("Colschen"). At some point, Carter stated that he co-owned the vehicle, and both Colschen and Carter consented to a vehicle search. During the ensuing search, Deputy Mattingly found a bag between the front seats. Inside, there was a container holding a syringe and a spoon. Below the container there were several plastic bags that appeared to contain drugs; subsequent lab testing revealed that the bags contained, in the aggregate, approximately 205 grams of methamphetamine and approximately 27.5 grams of heroin. Carter and Colschen were arrested and their cell phones were confiscated. The police later obtained a warrant to search the cell phones.

         [¶5] Carter was brought to trial on charges of Dealing in a Narcotic Drug and Dealing in Methamphetamine, both as Level 2 felonies. The State also alleged that Carter was a habitual offender. Before the trial began, Carter moved to suppress evidence obtained from the search of his cell phone; the trial court denied Carter's motion. At trial, Carter objected to the admission of cell phone evidence, and the court held a conference outside the presence of the jury. At the conference, the State tendered an exhibit containing several pages of text messages. The court determined that eight messages were admissible, and that, among the eight, any messages from third parties were admissible only to give context to Carter's messages. The State prepared a redacted exhibit containing the eight admissible text messages. See State's Ex. 23-1. Those messages-later admitted with a limiting instruction-indicated that Carter met with three individuals in the hours preceding the traffic stop, and had instructed one individual to pull around to the back, behind his Mustang, to avoid being seen.

         [¶6] The State's evidence also included testimony from Detective James Budde ("Detective Budde"), who was assigned to the local drug task force and had encountered heroin and methamphetamine hundreds of times as a police officer. Detective Budde opined that the quantity of heroin seized was "typical of a dealer amount," to which Carter did not object. Tr. Vol. IV at 224.

         [¶7] The jury found Carter guilty of the dealing counts, and Carter admitted to being a habitual offender. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an aggregate sentence of thirty-six years in the Indiana Department of Correction.

         [¶8] Carter now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision Cell Phone Records

         [¶9] Carter frames his argument as a challenge to the denial of his motion to suppress evidence, but Carter did not seek interlocutory review of that denial. We therefore treat Carter's argument as a challenge to the admission of the evidence. See Carpenter v. State, 18 N.E.3d 998, 1001 (Ind. 2014). "The trial court has broad discretion to rule on the admissibility of evidence." Thomas v. State, 81 N.E.3d 621, 624 (Ind. 2017). Ordinarily, we review evidentiary rulings for an abuse of discretion, evaluating whether the court's ruling was "clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances." Id. "However, when a challenge . . . is predicated on the constitutionality of the search or seizure of evidence, it raises a question of law that we review de novo." Id.

         [¶10] Both the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution proscribe unreasonable searches of "persons, houses, papers, and effects."[5] Moreover, under the Fourth Amendment, "reasonableness generally requires the obtaining of a judicial ...

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