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O'Keefe v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 27, 2019

Shane E. O'Keefe, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Vanderburgh Circuit Court The Honorable David D. Kiely, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 82C01-1807-F4-4879

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Cara Schaefer Wieneke Wieneke Law Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General Samuel J. Dayton Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          CRONE, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Shane E. O'Keefe appeals his convictions, following a bench trial, for level 4 felony possession of methamphetamine and class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.[1] He asserts that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence obtained as a result of the patdown search of his person during a valid traffic stop. He claims that the search violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[2] Finding no constitutional violation, and therefore no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On July 16, 2018, Lieutenant Brent Hoover of the Evansville Police Department was traveling eastbound on Diamond Avenue in a fully marked patrol vehicle. He observed a black Harley Davidson motorcycle with two occupants traveling with no visible license plate. Lieutenant Hoover activated his emergency lights and sirens and initiated a traffic stop of the motorcycle. At the time of the stop, Lieutenant Hoover was off duty and was not wearing his police uniform.

         [¶3] The motorcycle was being operated by O'Keefe, and a female passenger, Megan Schmitt, was with him. When Lieutenant Hoover approached O'Keefe and Schmitt, he observed that Schmitt was extremely nervous. Lieutenant Hoover also observed a large knife bag attached to the motorcycle and observed that the motorcycle appeared to be freshly painted. Lieutenant Hoover took custody of the knife attached to the motorcycle and asked O'Keefe if he had any other weapons.[3] O'Keefe stated that he did not.

         [¶4] Upon Lieutenant Hoover's request, O'Keefe and Schmitt provided identification. O'Keefe produced an Indiana driver's license with no motorcycle endorsement. Schmitt produced an Indiana identification card. O'Keefe was unable to produce proof of insurance. After receiving the identification, Lieutenant Hoover returned to his patrol vehicle, ran the information, and verified that Schmitt had an active misdemeanor arrest warrant. While Lieutenant Hoover was still in his patrol vehicle, he observed Schmitt on her cell phone, and then saw her start "walking away." Tr. Vol. 2 at 9. When Lieutenant Hoover then exited the patrol car, Schmitt "actually ran." Id. For the purposes of civilian and officer safety, Lieutenant Hoover placed handcuffs on O'Keefe and informed him that he was being detained and not arrested. Lieutenant Hoover "didn't know what was taking place, why [Schmitt had fled] … hadn't been able to determine ownership of the motorcycle or any of those things at that point." Id. at 10. Because Lieutenant Hoover observed that O'Keefe was wearing a motorcycle vest with several large bulges, he did a brief patdown search of O'Keefe for weapons. He located a sharpening stone for a knife in one of O'Keefe's vest pockets and removed it.

         [¶5] Evansville Police Department Detective Nathan Hassler just happened to be driving by the scene when he observed Lieutenant Hoover on the side of the road, not in uniform, with a "subject detained." Id. at 19. Detective Hassler stopped to see if Lieutenant Hoover needed assistance. [4] Lieutenant Hoover advised Detective Hassler that another "subject had fled from the stop," and he asked Detective Hassler to "take custody of Mr. O'Keefe at that time while he went to search for the subject that had fled." Id. Lieutenant Hoover then left to pursue Schmitt.

         [¶6] Detective Hassler, who was now alone with O'Keefe, immediately noticed that O'Keefe "had a lot of bulky items in his motorcycle vest." Id. In addition to the fact that O'Keefe's passenger had just fled the scene, Detective Hassler found it concerning that O'Keefe "had a large number of garments on for that time of year, temperature wise," not to mention that it appeared that his outer vest "pockets were packed full of stuff," which alerted Detective Hassler to an "obvious safety issue in terms of what could be [accessed] by O'Keefe." Id. at 20. Unaware of whether Lieutenant Hoover had already conducted a patdown search, Detective Hassler conducted a patdown search to make "sure that Mr. O'Keefe was safe for [Detective Hassler] to be around, and that included a pat down of his person due to the bulges in his pockets." Id. at 19-20.

         [¶7] During the patdown, Detective Hassler immediately felt what he recognized to be a large knife in O'Keefe's pocket. Because his pockets were "so packed full of items[, ]" in order to get to the knife, Detective Hassler had to first remove a cloth "sheath" from O'Keefe's pocket. Id. at 20. Due to the "flimsy material" of the sheath, and without needing to "manipulate the [sheath] in any way," it was immediately apparent to Detective Hassler upon grabbing it that it contained a pipe commonly used to consume methamphetamine. Id. Detective Hassler removed the pipe from the sheath and observed burnt residue inside the pipe. At that point, Detective Hassler placed O'Keefe under arrest, read him his Miranda rights, and asked him if he had any other items on his person. O'Keefe stated that he had "dope," specifically "an 8 ball" of methamphetamine. [5] Id. at 21. While conducting his search incident to arrest, Detective Hassler discovered three individually wrapped baggies containing a total of 9.5 grams of methamphetamine on O'Keefe's person. O'Keefe then revealed to Detective Hassler that he had struggled with addiction his entire life.

         [¶8] On July 18, 2018, the State charged O'Keefe with level 4 felony possession of methamphetamine and class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia. The State also charged O'Keefe with two class C traffic infractions; improper motorcycle license endorsement and operating a motorcycle without registration and display of registration. On February 20, 2019, O'Keefe filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained during the traffic stop. Among other things, O'Keefe argued that Detective ...

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