Duran v. State, 45A03-0811-CR-569.

Citation909 N.E.2d 1101
Case DateJuly 23, 2009
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana
909 N.E.2d 1101
Luis E. DURAN, Appellant-Defendant,
STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
No. 45A03-0811-CR-569.
Court of Appeals of Indiana.
July 23, 2009.

[909 N.E.2d 1104]

Alison L. Benjamin, Paul G. Stracci, Thiros & Stracci, P.C., Merrillville, IN, Attorneys for Appellant.

Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Ellen H. Meilaender, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.


ROBB, Judge.

Case Summary and Issue

Luis Duran brings this interlocutory appeal following the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized during a search of his apartment. On appeal, Duran raises one issue, which we restate as whether the trial court properly concluded that the police officers' entry into Duran's apartment did not violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution or Article I, Section 11, of the Indiana Constitution. Concluding the trial court's decision was not improper, we affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

On the afternoon of March 4, 2007, Officer David Gemeinhart of the East Chicago Police Department attempted to serve Nelson Hernandez with an arrest warrant at the address listed on the warrant, 3902 Butternut, East Chicago, Indiana. The warrant was based on a recent incident where Hernandez allegedly stole a vehicle and was injured when the vehicle crashed during the course of a police chase. Upon arrival at 3902 Butternut, Officer Gemeinhart spoke with Hernandez's mother, who told him that Hernandez was living in "the Harbor," which is apparently a neighborhood of East Chicago, though the record is not entirely clear on this point. Transcript at 50.

Later that evening, Officer Gemeinhart spoke with Officer Samuel Maldonado, who was familiar with Hernandez, in an attempt to determine his whereabouts. Fortuitously, Officer Maldonado told Officer Gemeinhart that he had given Hernandez a ride from the hospital to an East Chicago apartment building on the corner of Broadway and Elm several days earlier and just prior to the issuance of the arrest warrant. Officer Maldonado also told Officer Gemeinhart that Hernandez was in a cast and on crutches and that when the two arrived at the apartment building, he waited outside with Hernandez until a woman—Officer Maldonado thought it was Hernandez's mother—opened the door and helped Hernandez into the building with his belongings.

Around 11:00 p.m. that evening, Officers Gemeinhart and Maldonado, along with Officer Kevin Harretos, went to the apartment building on Broadway and Elm. Shortly after their arrival, the officers spoke with a man who claimed to

909 N.E.2d 1105

know Hernandez. The record is not entirely clear how the officers came into contact with the man—Officer Harretos testified the man answered the locked door to the commons area of the apartment building in response to the officers' knocks, while Officer Gemeinhart testified the man was standing near a door to a bar that was connected to the apartment building—but there is no dispute the man claimed to know Hernandez. Specifically, when Officer Gemeinhart showed the man a photograph of Hernandez and asked if the person depicted in the photograph was Hernandez, the man responded affirmatively. When asked if he knew where Hernandez lived, the man said he lived in a second-floor apartment with a green door and added, "It's the only apartment up there that has a green door on it." Id. at 57.

Based on this information, the officers entered the apartment building, climbed a flight of stairs, located the green door, and confirmed it was the only green door on the second floor. The officers also observed that the apartment building lacked typical means of identification such as mailboxes and room numbers. Officer Gemeinhart knocked on the green door and a man from inside the apartment asked, "Who is it?" Id. at 65. Officer Gemeinhart identified himself, and the man said, "Hold on a minute." Id. The officers then heard a "shuffling around" from inside the apartment followed by silence. Id. After knocking for several minutes without receiving a response, Officer Gemeinhart told the occupant that if the door was not opened, he would kick it in. After several more minutes passed without receiving a response, Officer Gemeinhart kicked the door in and entered the apartment. Duran was standing in the entryway, and Officer Gemeinhart asked him if Hernandez was in the apartment. Duran replied, "He doesn't live here. You can search, he's not here," so the officers searched the apartment and confirmed Hernandez was not there. Id. at 67. The officers did, however, observe a bag of cocaine on the bedroom window sill, along with baggies that were believed to be used as packaging material for the cocaine. The officers seized these items and placed Duran under arrest. Shortly thereafter, the officers knocked on the remaining two second-floor apartment doors. Hernandez's aunt answered one of them (the record is not entirely clear which) and confirmed Hernandez was inside; he was arrested shortly thereafter.

On August 3, 2007, the State charged Duran with Class A felony dealing in cocaine and Class C felony possession of cocaine. On April 2, 2008, Duran filed a motion to suppress, alleging that the entry into his apartment violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 11, of the Indiana Constitution. On June 19, 2008, the trial court conducted a hearing on the motion, hearing testimony from Officers Harretos, Gemeinhart, and Maldonado. Based on this evidence, the trial court denied Duran's motion. Duran now appeals.

Discussion and Decision
I. Standard of Review

This court reviews the trial court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence for an abuse of discretion. Mast v. State, 809 N.E.2d 415, 418 (Ind.Ct.App. 2004), trans. denied. An abuse of discretion occurs if the trial court's decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it. Cochran v. State, 843 N.E.2d 980, 983 (Ind.Ct. App.2006), trans. denied, cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1122, 127 S.Ct. 943, 166 L.Ed.2d 722 (2007). In conducting this review, we consider conflicting evidence in a light most favorable to the trial court's ruling, but also consider uncontested evidence favorable

909 N.E.2d 1106

to the defendant. Smith v. State, 780 N.E.2d 1214, 1216 (Ind.Ct.App.2003), trans. denied.

II. Propriety of Trial Court's Decision
A. Fourth Amendment Violation

Duran argues the police officers' entry into his apartment violated the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment states in relevant part, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...." The purpose of this provision is to protect people from unreasonable search and seizure, and it applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Krise v. State, 746 N.E.2d 957, 961 (Ind.2001) (citing Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 650, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961)). The remedy for a violation of the Fourth Amendment is to render inadmissible any evidence seized during the illegal search. Mapp, 367 U.S. at 654-55, 81 S.Ct. 1684.

In Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 576, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980), the United States Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment prohibits police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine felony arrest. As a corollary to this holding, the Court recognized that "an arrest warrant founded on probable cause implicitly carries with it the limited authority to enter a dwelling in which the suspect lives when there is reason to believe the suspect is within." Id. at 603, 100 S.Ct. 1371. The Court reasoned that this limited authority was constitutionally permissible because a detached magistrate had already determined there was sufficient cause to arrest the suspect, and that determination outweighed any privacy interest the suspect might have in refusing entry into his home. See id. at 602-03, 100 S.Ct. 1371. The Court refined this rule a year later in Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204, 212, 215-16, 101 S.Ct. 1642, 68 L.Ed.2d 38 (1981), holding that absent exigent circumstances, an arrest warrant does not give police officers the authority to conduct a nonconsensual search of the dwelling of a person not named in the warrant.

The federal circuit courts of appeal have interpreted the holdings of Payton and Steagald as permitting police officers to enter a dwelling if the evidence establishes the officers are sufficiently certain of the following: 1) that the arrestee resided at the dwelling and 2) that the arrestee was at the dwelling at the time of entry. See, e.g., United States v. Bervaldi, 226 F.3d 1256, 1263 (11th Cir.2000). The circuit courts are split, however, regarding what level of certainty is required under both prongs. Cf. Todosijevic v. County of Porter, Ind., 2005 WL 3279387, at *4 (N.D.Ind., Dec.2, 2005) ("[O]ne question still remained after Payton and Steagald: if an officer, armed with an arrest warrant for one individual, may only lawfully enter that individual's home without an additional search warrant, how sure must an officer be that the home he is entering belongs to the individual named in the arrest warrant?" (emphasis in original)). Seizing on the "reason to believe" language of Payton, a majority of circuit courts have interpreted the holdings of Payton and Steagald as requiring a "reasonable belief," which is a less exacting standard than probable cause. See, e.g., United States v. Thomas, 429 F.3d 282, 285-86 (D.C.Cir. 2005), cert.denied, 549 U.S. 1055, 127 S.Ct. 660, 166 L.Ed.2d 519 (2006); United States v. Bervaldi, 226 F.3d 1256, 1263 (11th Cir. 2000); Valdez v. McPheters, 172 F.3d 1220, 1225 (10th Cir.1999); United States v. Lovelock, 170 F.3d 339, 343 (2d Cir.1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 853, 120 S.Ct. 134, 145 L.Ed.2d...

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