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Taylor v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 22, 2019

Zachary J. Taylor, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Spencer Circuit Court The Honorable Jon A. Dartt, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 74C01-1801-F4-12

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Andrew W. Foster The Law Office of Andrew W. Foster, LLC Rockport, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Monika Prekopa Talbot Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Zachary J. Taylor appeals his convictions of Level 5 felony possession of methamphetamine[1] and Level 6 felony possession of marijuana.[2] Taylor argues the search of his apartment violated his rights against illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History[3]

         [¶2] On January 5, 2018, Rockport Police Officer Shon Shourds responded to an anonymous tip of drug activity at Taylor's apartment. Officer Shourds drove by the location and did not see any suspicious activity. After a second anonymous call reporting drug activity at Taylor's apartment, Officer Shourds contacted Police Chief Kyle Maldonado, who directed Officer Shourds to go to Taylor's apartment to "do a knock and talk." (Tr. Vol. II at 132.) Chief Maldonado met Officer Shourds there and accompanied him to Taylor's apartment door.

         [¶3] Officers heard voices from inside Taylor's apartment as they approached. The door had a window, which was covered with blinds, with the exception of a few inches at the bottom of the window. Before knocking, Officer Shourds "peeked through or glanced through" the gap under the blinds, (id. at 49), and saw Taylor and a female who was holding a small, cylindrical glass pipe used to consume tobacco or illegal substances. Officer Shourds testified he had to "adjust his body" to see through the gap. (Id.) Officer Shourds did not knock on the door. Instead the officers returned to the parking lot to obtain a search warrant.

         [¶4] While the officers were in the parking lot pursuing the search warrant, they saw Taylor and the woman exit Taylor's apartment and go separate directions. Officer Shourds recognized Taylor, exited the patrol car, and asked Taylor if he knew the woman's name. Taylor told Officer Shourds the woman was Angela Stokes and gave him Stokes' address. Officer Shourds proceeded to Stokes' nearby apartment.

         [¶5] Officer Shourds knocked on Stokes' door, and she answered. He asked if he could speak with her, and she agreed. Officer Shourds told Stokes she was going to jail because he had observed her smoking methamphetamine at Taylor's apartment. During the conversation, Stokes gave Officer Shourds a smoking device similar to the one he saw her holding in Taylor's apartment, as well as multiple pills she claimed Taylor had given her to sell. Officer Shourds arrested Stokes.

         [¶6] While the officers were still waiting for the search warrant, Taylor returned to his apartment. Officers were concerned that Taylor would destroy evidence in the apartment, so they would not let Taylor enter his apartment. Taylor became angry, but eventually calmed down and left. Officers received the search warrant shortly thereafter, and Taylor returned to his apartment while officers were in the process of searching it. Other officers had arrived at the scene in the intervening moments and detained Taylor.

         [¶7] In Taylor's apartment, officers found methamphetamine, marijuana, and a digital scale. Officers arrested Taylor. The State charged Taylor with Level 5 felony dealing in a narcotic drug, [4] Level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine, [5] Level 6 felony maintaining a common nuisance, [6] Level 6 felony dealing in marijuana, [7] and Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana.[8] The State subsequently amended the charging information and added charges of Level 4 felony dealing in a narcotic drug, [9] Level 5 felony possession of methamphetamine, [10] Level 6 felony dealing in marijuana, [11] and Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana.[12]

         [¶8] On April 2, 2018, Taylor filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in his apartment, alleging the search of his apartment violated his Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11 rights against illegal search and seizure. He argued the evidence obtained as part of the search of his apartment was fruit of the poisonous tree because Officer Shourds conducted an illegal warrantless search when he repositioned his body to look in the gap between the blinds covering Taylor's door window and the edge of the window. The trial court held a hearing on Taylor's motion to suppress on April 13, 2018, and denied it on May 1, 2018.

         [¶9] The trial court held Taylor's jury trial on May 9, 2018. During trial Taylor continued his objection to the admission of the evidence found in his apartment. The jury returned guilty verdicts on Level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine, Level 6 felony maintaining a common nuisance, and Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Taylor subsequently pled guilty to having prior convictions that enhanced two of those convictions to Level 5 felony possession of methamphetamine and Level 6 felony possession of marijuana. The trial court vacated the maintaining a common nuisance conviction due to double jeopardy concerns. On June 14, 2018, the trial court sentenced Taylor to an aggregate sentence of fourteen years, with one year suspended to probation.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶10] The trial court denied Taylor's pre-trial motion to suppress evidence, and Taylor made timely objections to the admission of evidence at trial. Because Taylor appeals following his conviction, rather than from the trial court's order denying his motion to suppress, the question before us is properly framed as whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the evidence. Shell v. State, 927 N.E.2d 413, 418 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010).

         [¶11] Admission of evidence at trial is left to the discretion of the trial court. Clarkv. State, 994 N.E.2d 252, 259-60 (Ind. 2013). We review its determinations for an abuse of that discretion and reverse only when admission is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances and the error affects a party's substantial rights. Id. at 260. We will not reweigh evidence, and we consider conflicting evidence most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Marcum v. State, 843 N.E.2d 546, 547 (Ind.Ct.App. 2006). We also consider uncontested evidence favorable to the defendant. Id. The record must disclose substantial evidence of probative value that supports the trial court's decision. Gonser v. State, 843 ...


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