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Smith v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 10, 2019

Tre Ron Smith, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Steven J. Rubick, Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 49G07-1711-CM-45409

          Attorney for Appellant Daniel Hageman Marion County Public Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana J.T. Whitehead Tyler G. Banks Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAILEY, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Tre Ron Smith ("Smith") appeals his conviction of possession of a handgun, as a Class A misdemeanor, [1] following a bench trial. We address the following dispositive, restated issue: whether the trial court erroneously admitted evidence obtained following an investigatory stop.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History[2]

         [¶3] On November 26, 2017, at approximately 1:15 a.m., Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Kevin Moore ("Officer Moore") received a "shots-fired" radio run from dispatch indicating that gunshots were fired from a vehicle "in the area" of Market Street in downtown Indianapolis. Tr. at 6, 14.[3]Dispatch had received a report[4] from an anonymous caller that gunshots were fired from a silver or gray Trailblazer in that area. Id. The caller further noted that the vehicle had damage "all over" it. Id. at 11. When Officer Moore arrived at the corner of Delaware and Market Streets soon thereafter, [5] he observed a vehicle matching the description he had received from dispatch. Officer Moore and other officers on the scene stopped the vehicle. Smith was in the driver's seat of the vehicle and there were two passengers.

         [¶4] Based on the information from the "shots-fired" report, Officer Moore believed there was a firearm in Smith's vehicle. Id. at 12. Therefore, Officer Moore and other officers on the scene approached the vehicle with their guns drawn, instructed Smith and the passengers to exit the vehicle, and placed them in handcuffs while they searched the vehicle. Officer Moore saw a handgun on the driver's side floor of the vehicle in plain view. After they completed the search of the vehicle, the police read Smith a Miranda[6] warning and asked him if the gun belonged to him. Smith admitted that the gun was his; however, he did not have a license for it. The police arrested Smith.

         [¶5] That same day the State charged Smith with carrying a handgun without a license, as a Class A misdemeanor. At his June 14, 2018, bench trial, Smith made an oral motion to suppress the handgun found in his vehicle on the grounds that the search violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The trial court denied that motion and overruled Smith's subsequent objection to Officer Moore's testimony about the search. The trial court found Smith guilty as charged and sentenced him to 361 days of probation. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         Standard of Review

         [¶6] Smith objected to the admission of the evidence in an oral motion to suppress at the beginning of his bench trial and renewed his objection when the State offered Officer Moore's testimony and the handgun evidence. Because Smith appeals following his conviction and is not appealing the trial court's order denying his motion to suppress, the question before us is properly framed as whether the trial court erred in admitting the evidence. Clark v. State, 994 N.E.2d 252, 259 (Ind. 2013).

In ruling on admissibility following the denial of a motion to suppress, the trial court considers the foundational evidence presented at trial. [Guilmette v. State, 14 N.E.3d 38, ] 40 n.1 (Ind. 2014)]. It also considers the evidence from the suppression hearing that is favorable to the defendant only to the extent it is uncontradicted at trial. Id. Because the trial court is best able to weigh the evidence and assess witness credibility, we review its rulings on admissibility for abuse of discretion and reverse only if a ruling is "clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances and the error affects a party's substantial rights." Clark, 994 N.E.2d at 260. But the ultimate determination of the constitutionality of a search or seizure is a question of law that we consider de novo. McIlquham v. State, 10 N.E.3d 506, 511 (Ind. 2014).

Carpenter v. State, 18 N.E.3d 998, 1001 (Ind. 2014).

         [¶7] Smith raises claims under both the federal and state constitutions. Although the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution contain textually similar language, each must be separately analyzed. Marshall v. State, No. 18S-CR-00464, slip op. at 5-6 (Ind. Feb. 27, 2019).

         Fourth Amendment

         [¶8] Smith maintains that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they stopped his vehicle and, therefore, evidence found in the subsequent search of his vehicle should have been excluded at trial.[7] The Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless searches and seizures unless the State can prove that an exception to the warrant requirement existed at the time of the search. See, e.g., Marshall, slip op. at 6. However, police may, "without a warrant or probable cause, briefly detain an individual for investigatory purposes if, based on specific and articulable facts, the officer has a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity 'may be afoot.'" Edmond v. State, 951 N.E.2d 585, 588 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27 (1968)). "We often call these encounters Terry ...


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