Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hodges v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

November 21, 2018

Michael Hodges, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable John F. Hanley, Judge The Honorable Ian Stewart, Commissioner Trial Court Cause No. 49D11-1711-MI-40912

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Matthew Abels Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Justin F. Roebel Supervising Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Pyle, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Michael Hodges ("Hodges") appeals the trial court's order granting the State's motion to transfer $60, 990 of his money to the United States. Hodges argues that the seizure of his money was unlawful because it exceeded the scope of the search warrant. Concluding that the seizure was unlawful, we reverse the trial court's order granting the State's motion to turn the currency over to the United States and remand with instructions to the trial court to order the return of the money to Hodges.

         [¶2] We reverse and remand with instructions.

         Issue

         Whether the trial court's order granting the State's motion to transfer Hodges' money to the United States was erroneous.

         Facts

         [¶3] In October 2017, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Detective Brian Thorla ("Detective Thorla") was inspecting unopened packages at a local parcel shipping company when he noticed a suspicious package addressed from Hodges in Illinois to Christopher Smith in California. Specifically, Detective Thorla concluded that the package was suspicious because: (1) the shipping cost was paid in cash; (2) no signature was required at the time of the package's delivery; (3) additional tape was added to a self-sealing box; and (4) the shipping box was a new box from the shipping company. Detective Thorla set the package aside, and his K9 partner, Hogan ("K9 Hogan"), later conducted a dog sniff of it. After K9 Hogan gave a positive alert to the package, which indicated the presence of the odor of controlled substances, the detective sought and received a search warrant, which authorized law enforcement officers to open the package and search for: "Illegal Controlled substances (Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Heroin, MDMA) also records of drug trafficking and proceeds of drug trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, money laundering, involving the proactive attempts of concealing currency as listed in the affidavit; as well as money orders and gift cards." (App. 23). The search warrant also authorized law enforcement officers to "seize such property, or any part thereof, found on such search." (App. 23).

         [¶4] When Detective Thorla opened the package, he discovered vacuum sealed packets of United States currency. The packets contained a large quantity of twenty-dollar bills, which were wrapped tightly in rubber bands. The seized currency was removed from the sealed packets and hidden in another room where K9 Hogan gave another positive alert, which indicated the presence of the odor of controlled substances on the currency. Based on his training and experience, Detective Thorla recognized these factors to be indicators that the currency was the proceeds of drug trafficking.

         [¶5] In November 2017, the State filed a motion to transfer the seized money to the United States. Specifically, pursuant to Indiana Code § 35-33-5-5, the State alleged that during the execution of a search warrant, "U.S. Currency was discovered and confiscated as proceeds of narcotics trafficking under Ind. Code Ann. 35-48-4-1 and money laundering under Ind. Code Ann. 35-45-15-4[.]" (App. 6). Based on the allegation, the State "move[d] the [trial] court to issue a Turnover Order authorizing the State to turn over to the appropriate federal authority certain property seized from [Michael Hodges] and held by the State for forfeiture." (App. 6).

         [¶6] Hodges filed an answer objecting to the State's motion to transfer wherein he argued that the seizure of the $60, 990 was unlawful because it exceeded the scope of the search warrant. In support of his objection, Hodges cited Bowman v. State, 81 N.E.3d 1127 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017), modified on denial of rehearing, trans. denied, cert. denied, which involved the same detective and facts similar to his own case.

         [¶7] Specifically, in Bowman, Detective Thorla obtained a search warrant to open and search two suspicious parcels "for controlled substances, records of drug trafficking, and proceeds of drug trafficking." Bowman, 81 N.E.3d at 1128. One parcel was sent by Bowman in Illinois to Jacob Murphy ("Murphy") in California, and the second parcel was sent by Tommy Maurry ("Maurry") in Illinois to Murphy in California. Law enforcement officials found $15, 000 in each parcel and seized the $30, 000. The State filed motions to transfer the $30, 000 to the United States. After concluding that the appearance of the parcels, the excessive taping, the type of shipping and payment, the multiple parcels to the same destination in a known controlled substance import-export state, the positive K9 alert to the presence of the odor of controlled substances, and the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom constituted probable cause to authorize the seizure, the trial court granted the State's motion.

         [¶8] On appeal, Bowman, Murphy, and Maurry argued that the seizure of the $30, 000 was unlawful because the seizure went beyond the scope of the search warrant. This Court agreed. Id. at 1131. Specifically, we explained that the only evidence that this money was obtained through drug trafficking was: (1) the parcels were being shipped to California; (2) they were being sent to the same recipient; (3) they were heavily taped; (4) they were shipped priority overnight; and (5) a K9 unit alerted to the parcels. Id. at 1130. We further explained the insignificance of this evidence as it related to drug trafficking as follows:

We can easily dispense with the first four pieces of evidence. We are confident that a voluminous number of parcels meeting those criteria and having nothing to do with drug trafficking are shipped in this country every day. If all money shipped in heavily taped parcels mailed to California via priority overnight mail could be seized as proceeds of drug trafficking, many last-minute gift recipients at holiday and birthday time would be sorely disappointed (and surprised).

Id. We also explained that the remaining fact that a K9 unit gave positive alerts on both parcels meant only that at some point, someone handling the parcels transferred an odor of controlled substances to them. Id. We further explained that this could have been the parcels' senders or any number ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.