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
of the Case
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.
We reverse and remand with instructions.
the trial court's order granting the State's motion
to transfer Hodges' money to the United States was
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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 ...