State v. Brown

Citation70 N.E.3d 331
Decision Date02 March 2017
Docket NumberNo. 49S05-1606-CR-00348,49S05-1606-CR-00348
Parties STATE of Indiana, Appellant (Plaintiff below), v. David BROWN, Appellee (Defendant below).
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

70 N.E.3d 331

STATE of Indiana, Appellant (Plaintiff below),
David BROWN, Appellee (Defendant below).

No. 49S05-1606-CR-00348

Supreme Court of Indiana.

March 2, 2017

Attorneys for Appellant: Curtis T. Hill, Jr., Attorney General of Indiana, J.T. Whitehead, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana

Attorney for Appellee: John L. Tompkins, Brown Tompkins Lorry & Mastrian, Indianapolis, Indiana

David, Justice.

This case involves whether the brief detainment of defendant as part of a sobriety checkpoint is custodial so as to trigger Miranda protection. We hold that such detainment is no more custodial than a routine traffic or Terry stop, and thus, defendant was not entitled to Miranda warnings at the sobriety checkpoint.

Facts and Procedural History

In July 2013, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police set up a field sobriety checkpoint to apprehend impaired drivers. Officers set up the checkpoint at the back of a well-lit Arby's parking lot and were instructed that they had no more than two (2) minutes to discern impairment before they had to release the motorists.

At some point, Defendant, David Brown, who was driving a motorcycle, entered the checkpoint. Officer Winter identified himself and asked Brown for his license. He observed that Brown had red, watery eyes, struggled to get his license out, had slurred speech and smelled like alcohol. Officer Winter asked Brown if he had been

70 N.E.3d 333

drinking and Brown admitted that he had. The officer administered some field sobriety tests, and ultimately, arrested Brown.

Brown was charged with Class C misdemeanor operating while intoxicated and Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of at least .08 but less than .15 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

During a bench trial, the State presented testimony and evidence about the sobriety checkpoint, generally, and about the encounter with Brown. When one of the officers testified that Brown had admitted he had been drinking, Brown's counsel requested to ask the officer some preliminary questions. Counsel asked the officer whether the officer Mirandized Brown prior to asking him if he had been drinking, and the officer responded no. The officer further indicated that Brown was not free to go when that question was asked and that the question was asked as part of an investigation into possible impaired drivers.

Brown's counsel then objected to the officer's testimony about him asking Brown if he had been drinking and Brown's response based on a Miranda violation. The State argued in response that a Miranda warning was not necessary because the checkpoint was a traffic stop and not a custodial situation.

The trial court instructed the parties to brief this issue and agreed to bifurcate the trial. After reviewing the parties' briefs, the trial court entered an order granting Brown's motion to suppress. The court's order suppressed "any statements by [Brown], as well as any evidence obtained thereafter." (App. 66.)

Thereafter, the State filed a motion to correct error, arguing no Miranda violation occurred, and even if it did, the other evidence (e.g., field sobriety test and Breathalyzer results) should not have been excluded. The trial court denied that motion, and the State appealed.

In an unpublished decision, the Court of Appeals, sua sponte , determined that the State had no statutory authority to appeal because Brown never filed a written motion to suppress, the State's brief did not explicitly address its statutory authority to appeal, the order suppressing the evidence was issued during trial (and thus, after jeopardy attached) and that due to the "unusual and uncertain" procedural posture, the State could not bring the appeal. State v. Brown , 2016 WL 1276576 at **7, 10-12 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016). It therefore dismissed the State's appeal and remanded it to the trial court for further proceedings. The State then petitioned for transfer, which we granted. Ind. App. Rule 58(A).

As a threshold matter, we hold that the State can bring its appeal pursuant to Indiana Code § 35-38-4-2(5). We further hold, as a matter of first impression, that Miranda warnings are not required in circumstances such as these, where a defendant is briefly detained at a public sobriety checkpoint.

Discussion and Decision

I. The State may appeal from the trial court's order granting Brown's motion to suppress.

As a threshold matter, we first address the State's right to appeal this matter. The State's statutory right to appeal the order is an issue of law which this Court reviews de novo. State v. I.T ., 4 N.E.3d 1139, 1142 (Ind. 2014). Indiana Code section 35-38-4-2 governs, and at the time of the State's appeal, it provided in relevant part:

Appeals to the supreme court or to the court of appeals, if the court rules so
70 N.E.3d 334
provide, may be taken by the state in the following cases:

* * *

(5) From an order granting a motion to suppress evidence, if the ultimate effect of the order is to preclude further prosecution.1

Ind. Code § 35-38-4-2 (Supp. 2012) (emphasis added).

When interpreting a statute, our primary goal is to fulfill the legislature's intent. Day v. State , 57 N.E.3d 809, 812 (Ind. 2016) (citation omitted). The "best evidence" of that intent is the statute's language. Id. If that language is clear and unambiguous, we simply apply its plain and ordinary meaning, heeding both what it "does say" and what it "does not say." State v. Dugan , 793 N.E.2d 1034, 1036 (Ind. 2003).

Here, pursuant to the plain language of the statute, the State has the authority to appeal under subsection (5) because both requirements of that subsection are met. That is: 1) the trial court granted Brown's motion to suppress; and 2) the suppression order was so broad that it effectively precluded further prosecution.

The Court of Appeals held that because Defendant did not file a motion to suppress and, instead, merely objected to evidence introduced at trial, the trial court never granted a motion to suppress. However, even though Brown initially raised the Miranda violation through an oral objection, he eventually filed a "Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Suppress ." (App. at 58 (emphasis added).) Also, while Brown technically did not "file" a motion to suppress, a filing requirement appears nowhere in the plain language of subsection (5). Finally, the trial court's own order treated Brown's objection as a "Motion to Suppress" and granted it. (App. at 66.) Accordingly, we find that the trial court did, in fact, grant a motion to suppress.

Additionally, while the Court of Appeals correctly noted that the matter is stayed, that a verdict or judgment has not been rendered and that the chronological case summary reveals that the charges remain and the parties continue to have status conferences, nevertheless, the trial court's granting of Brown's motion to suppress effectively precludes further prosecution. Indeed, the suppression order here was quite broad as it suppressed "any statements by [Brown] as well as any evidence obtained thereafter." (App. 66.) Brown was charged with two counts: 1) operating a vehicle with a BAC between .08 and .15; and 2) operating while intoxication. The suppression order effectively excludes all the evidence the State would need to prove these charges, including all Brown's statements to police, physical evidence that Brown was intoxicated and the alcohol concentration in Brown's body. Without this evidence, the State has no case. Thus, we find that the suppression order precludes further prosecution notwithstanding the fact that the matter remains pending on the trial docket.

II. The sobriety checkpoint at issue does not trigger Miranda .

Now that we have determined that the State may bring its appeal, we turn to the merits of this matter. That is, whether the trial court properly granted Brown's motion to suppress because Brown was not given Miranda warnings prior to police asking him if he was drinking at the sobriety checkpoint.

70 N.E.3d 335

When the State appeals from a negative judgment, it bears the burden to "show that the trial court's ruling on the suppression motion was contrary to law." State v. Keck , 4 N.E.3d 1180, 1183 (Ind. 2014) (quoting State v. Washington , 898 N.E.2d 1200, 1203...

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