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Davis v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 9, 2019

Kenneth Davis, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Ronnie Huerta, Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 49G19-1612-CM-46098

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Matthew M. Kubacki

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Ian McLean Supervising Deputy Attorney

          Vaidik, Chief Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Kenneth Davis was pulled over for a traffic violation. During the stop, the police officer suspected that the truck was stolen because Davis had a suspended driver's license and could not prove ownership of the truck. After the officer had Davis get out of the truck, he asked him if he had any weapons in the truck. Davis said yes. The officer then handcuffed Davis for officer safety and retrieved the gun from the truck. The officer later learned that the truck was not stolen but that Davis did not have a valid gun license. Davis was not arrested on the scene, but he was later charged with carrying a handgun without a license and driving while suspended. Davis was found guilty on both charges.

         [¶2] Davis now appeals, arguing that the search of his truck was unlawful and that the trial court therefore erred in admitting the officer's testimony that he found a gun in the truck. We find that the limited search of the truck for the gun was lawful pursuant to Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983). That is, the officer reasonably believed that Davis was dangerous and might gain immediate control of the gun. We therefore affirm Davis's conviction for carrying a handgun without a license. However, because both parties agree that the evidence is insufficient to prove that Davis committed driving while suspended, we reverse that conviction and remand the case to the trial court with instructions to issue an amended sentencing order.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] Around 2:30 p.m. on November 1, 2016, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Christopher Morgan pulled over Davis for failing to signal. Officer Morgan approached Davis's truck and asked for his driver's license and registration. Davis gave Officer Morgan his driver's license but said he "didn't have any paperwork" for the truck because he was in the process of buying it. Tr. p. 9. Officer Morgan returned to his patrol car to run Davis's driver's license and "the vehicle's information." Id. Officer Morgan learned that Davis's driver's license was suspended and that "the truck belonged to somebody else." Id. At this point, Officer Morgan became concerned that the truck "could be stolen." Id.

         [¶4] Officer Morgan returned to the truck and asked Davis to step out because he "didn't know whose vehicle it was" and "wanted to confirm whether it was stolen." Id. at 13-14; see also id. at 11. Once Davis was outside the truck, Officer Morgan asked him "if he had any weapons in the" truck, and Davis said yes. Id. at 14. Officer Morgan "handcuffed [Davis] for officer safety" and took him to the rear of the truck. Id. Officer Morgan waited for other officers to arrive, at which point he "searched the truck for the gun." Id. He found a handgun (which was not in a case) on the front seat under a pile of clothes. He also found a box of .40 caliber ammunition and a couple of magazines (one of which was for a different gun). According to Indiana Code section 35-47-2-1(a), "a person shall not carry a handgun in any vehicle or on or about the person's body without being licensed." But there are exceptions, including: a person may carry a handgun without being licensed if "the person carries the handgun in a vehicle that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by the person, if the handgun is: (A) unloaded; (B) not readily accessible; and (C) secured in a case." Ind. Code § 35-47-2-1(b)(3). Officer Morgan returned to Davis at the rear of the truck, gave him Miranda warnings, and asked him where he purchased the gun. Davis told him "ArmsList." Tr. p. 18. Officer Morgan then asked Davis if he knew the owner of the truck, and Davis said yes. After establishing that this person owned the truck, Officer Morgan called him, and he confirmed that Davis was buying the truck from him. Officer Morgan had the owner come pick up the truck to avoid towing fees. At some point, Officer Morgan learned that Davis's gun license was "pending," meaning it had not yet been issued. Id. Officer Morgan confiscated the gun. Davis was not arrested at the time and was allowed to leave. Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 35.

         [¶5] Thereafter, the State charged Davis with Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license and Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended (elevated from a Class A infraction based on a prior judgment for the same violation). At the bench trial, the State called one witness, Officer Morgan. During Officer Morgan's testimony, defense counsel moved to suppress evidence of the gun, arguing that Officer Morgan "had no reason to search th[e] truck" for officer safety because Davis was "in handcuffs at the back of the truck." Tr. p. 15. At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court asked the parties to submit authority on the legality of the search. Id. at 26. Both Davis and the State submitted authority, Appellant's App. Vol. II pp. 27, 34, and the trial court reconvened two weeks later to announce its decision. Specifically, the trial court found Davis guilty of Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license. Tr. p. 36. The trial court did not discuss the charge of driving while suspended. The court, however, later issued a sentencing order reflecting that Davis was found guilty of Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license and driving while suspended as an infraction (as a lesser included of the Class A misdemeanor). Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 9.

         [¶6] Davis now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶7] Davis raises two issues on appeal, one of which the State concedes. That is, Davis argues that the evidence is insufficient to prove that he committed the infraction of driving while suspended because the State "did not produce any . . . evidence as to the status of [his] driver's license."[1] Appellant's Br. p. 10. The State concedes that it did not present such evidence. Accordingly, we reverse Davis's conviction for ...


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