Hardin v. State, Supreme Court Case No. 20S-CR-418

Docket NºSupreme Court Case No. 20S-CR-418
Citation148 N.E.3d 932
Case DateJune 23, 2020
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

148 N.E.3d 932

Brian E. HARDIN, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff).

Supreme Court Case No. 20S-CR-418

Supreme Court of Indiana.

Argued: September 26, 2019
Filed June 23, 2020


On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 18A-CR-2629

Goff, Justice.

Both our federal and state constitutions provide protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. This case implicates those protections by raising the following question: Do law-enforcement officers violate either constitution by searching a person's vehicle when the person drives that vehicle up to his or her house while officers are there executing a search warrant for the house that does not address vehicles? Based on the circumstances here, we answer "no" and affirm the trial court. In arriving at that answer, we provide guidance on the test applicable to these specific types of situations under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We also survey our precedent under Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution and provide generally applicable guidance on our totality-of-the-circumstances test.

Factual and Procedural History

Late one night in September 2017, a team of four law-enforcement officers prepared to execute a warrant to search Brian Hardin's home in Camby, Indiana. The search sprang from a multi-agency investigation into the alleged drug-dealing activities of several people, including Hardin. As part of this investigation, officers wiretapped one of Hardin's confederates, Jerry Hall, and intercepted communications between the two men regarding the purchase and distribution of methamphetamine. Officers also observed Hardin driving a truck, registered in his name, to his home in Camby and Hall's home in Indianapolis. Indiana State Police (ISP) Detective Joshua Allen put this information in an affidavit seeking a warrant to search Hardin's home for drugs and related items. The Morgan Superior Court issued the warrant but did not address the treatment of vehicles that might be found on the premises.

The four officers, including Detective Allen, forcibly entered Hardin's home, learned that no one else was there, and began their search. In the garage, they found digital scales and "heat seal bags that contained a crystal substance" which tested positive for methamphetamine. Tr. Vol. 2, p. 93. The officers also found syringes and two "pay and owe sheets," which Detective Allen described as ledgers to

148 N.E.3d 938

keep track of who owed money for drugs provided. Id. at 118. While the officers were at the home, Hardin's girlfriend and her daughter arrived, and the officers escorted them both inside the home for supervision. Also during the search, the officers learned from police executing a search warrant on Hall's home in Indianapolis that Hardin had recently obtained a large amount of methamphetamine from Hall.

Based on this information, Detective Allen and ISP Trooper John Patrick left in separate vehicles to try to find Hardin. ISP Detective Matt Fleener and ISP Trooper Kent Rohlfing stayed behind in case Hardin came back to the home.

While Detective Allen and Trooper Patrick looked for their suspect, Hardin returned home. Trooper Rohlfing, covering the front door of Hardin's home, saw a truck pull into the driveway and heard the overhead-garage door open. A few seconds later, Hardin opened the door between the garage and kitchen, which Detective Fleener was covering. Detective Fleener identified himself as a law-enforcement officer and quickly closed the gap between himself and a backpedaling Hardin. After a scuffle, Detective Fleener and Trooper Rohlfing handcuffed Hardin and had him sit in a chair. They then called EMS to tend to Hardin's minor injuries and informed Detective Allen and Trooper Patrick that Hardin was in custody at the home.

Detective Allen and Trooper Patrick returned to the home, and Detective Allen searched the vehicle Hardin drove into his driveway—the same one officers observed him driving during previous surveillance. Detective Allen found 108 grams of crystal methamphetamine in a black bag underneath the driver's seat.

The State charged Hardin with two counts: dealing in methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine. It also sought a habitual-offender enhancement, which it later dismissed.

Hardin filed a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the search. Basing his argument on both the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, Hardin argued that the officers exceeded the scope of the warrant by searching his vehicle, which was not mentioned in the warrant. After a hearing, the trial court denied the suppression motion. Specifically, the trial court found that Hardin's vehicle, parked in the driveway to his home, was within the curtilage of the home and therefore fell within the scope of the warrant. Alternatively, the court found that probable cause and the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement supported the search of Hardin's vehicle. Hardin did not seek interlocutory appeal, and the case proceeded to a bench trial.

At trial, Hardin objected to the introduction of the evidence obtained during the search of his vehicle, reiterating and incorporating the suppression arguments he previously made. The trial court overruled the objection and admitted the evidence. Ultimately, the court found Hardin guilty of both counts—dealing in and possession of methamphetamine—and sentenced him to an aggregate term of nearly twenty-two years.

Hardin appealed, challenging the admission of the evidence found in his vehicle based on the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a split decision. Hardin v. State , 124 N.E.3d 117 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019). Relying on recent precedent from the Court of Appeals and the fact that Hardin did not challenge the trial court's finding that his vehicle was within the curtilage of

148 N.E.3d 939

his home, the majority found that the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 123–24. It likewise found no violation of Article 1, Section 11 based on the totality of the circumstances. Id. at 124. Judge Mathias, however, dissented. Id. at 125–26 (Mathias, J., dissenting). In concluding that the search violated both our federal and state constitutions, he focused on the relative ease with which the law-enforcement officers could have included a description of Hardin's vehicle in the warrant for the home and with which they could have obtained a separate warrant specifically for the vehicle. Id (Mathias, J., dissenting).

Hardin petitioned for transfer, which we now grant, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. See Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

Standard of Review

We review a trial court's ruling on the admissibility of evidence at trial for an abuse of discretion. Carpenter v. State , 18 N.E.3d 998, 1001 (Ind. 2014). "But the ultimate determination of the constitutionality of a search or seizure is a question of law that we consider de novo." Id.

Discussion and Decision

Hardin argues that the trial court should not have admitted the evidence found during the search of his vehicle because the search violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. He acknowledges that the law-enforcement officers obtained a warrant for his home and that the trial court found that his vehicle was within the home's curtilage when the officers searched it. Neither Hardin nor the State asks us to address whether the vehicle was parked within the home's curtilage, so we assume without deciding that the trial court correctly resolved that issue. Instead, Hardin contends that the search was constitutionally unreasonable and not supported by the warrant for his home, which addressed neither vehicles generally nor his vehicle specifically. We consider the nuances of this argument under the Fourth Amendment and Article 1, Section 11 below.

I. The search of Hardin's vehicle did not violate the Fourth Amendment because the vehicle fell within the scope of the warrant for Hardin's home.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

A warrant covering a house allows searches of things and places within the house that could contain the object of the search. United States v. Ross , 456 U.S. 798, 820–21, 102 S.Ct. 2157, 72 L.Ed.2d 572 (1982) ("A lawful search of fixed premises generally extends to the entire area in which the object of the search may be found and is not limited by the possibility that separate acts of entry or opening may be required to complete the search."). The boundaries of a house for Fourth Amendment purposes extend beyond the physical structure of the house itself to include the curtilage—that is, "the area immediately surrounding and...

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16 practice notes
  • People v. Gordon, No. 9
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • February 18, 2021
    ...(see Gottschalk, 915 F.2d at 1461 ), it is undisputed here that defendant owned or controlled both vehicles.2 See e.g. Hardin v. State, 148 N.E.3d 932, 941–942 (Ind. 2020) ; State v. Hidalgo, 296 Neb. 912, 921, 896 N.W.2d 148, 155 (2017) ; State v. Patterson, 304 Kan. 272, 279–281, 371 P.3d......
  • Parker v. State, 21A-CR-1643
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • September 22, 2022
    ...language nearly identical to the Fourth Amendment, Indiana courts interpret Article 1, Section 11 independently. Hardin v. State, 148 N.E.3d 932, 942 (Ind. 2020). In cases involving Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, the State must show that the challenged police action was ......
  • Ramirez v. State, Supreme Court Case No. 20S-LW-430
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • September 23, 2021
    ...the State has shown that a particular search or seizure was reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances. Hardin v. State , 148 N.E.3d 932, 942 (Ind. 2020). In doing so, we employ the framework provided in Litchfield v. State , 824 N.E.2d 356, 361 (Ind. 2005). We evaluate the reaso......
  • Alexander-Woods v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 20A-CR-1233
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • February 3, 2021
    ...language nearly identical to the Fourth Amendment, Indiana courts interpret Article 1, Section 11 independently. Hardin v. State , 148 N.E.3d 932, 942 (Ind. 2020). In cases involving Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, the State must show that the challenged police action was......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • People v. Gordon, No. 9
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • February 18, 2021
    ...(see Gottschalk, 915 F.2d at 1461 ), it is undisputed here that defendant owned or controlled both vehicles.2 See e.g. Hardin v. State, 148 N.E.3d 932, 941–942 (Ind. 2020) ; State v. Hidalgo, 296 Neb. 912, 921, 896 N.W.2d 148, 155 (2017) ; State v. Patterson, 304 Kan. 272, 279–281, 371 P.3d......
  • Ramirez v. State, Supreme Court Case No. 20S-LW-430
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • September 23, 2021
    ...the State has shown that a particular search or seizure was reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances. Hardin v. State , 148 N.E.3d 932, 942 (Ind. 2020). In doing so, we employ the framework provided in Litchfield v. State , 824 N.E.2d 356, 361 (Ind. 2005). We evaluate the reaso......
  • Alexander-Woods v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 20A-CR-1233
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • February 3, 2021
    ...language nearly identical to the Fourth Amendment, Indiana courts interpret Article 1, Section 11 independently. Hardin v. State , 148 N.E.3d 932, 942 (Ind. 2020). In cases involving Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, the State must show that the challenged police action was......
  • Ramirez v. State, 20S-LW-430
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • September 23, 2021
    ...the State has shown that a particular search or seizure was reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances. Hardin v. State, 148 N.E.3d 932, 942 (Ind. 2020). In doing so, we employ the framework provided in Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 361 (Ind. 2005). We evaluate the reasona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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