Washington v. State, 12A02-0004-CR-230.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana
Citation740 N.E.2d 1241
Docket NumberNo. 12A02-0004-CR-230.,12A02-0004-CR-230.
PartiesWillie WASHINGTON, Appellant-Defendant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
Decision Date19 December 2000

740 N.E.2d 1241

Willie WASHINGTON, Appellant-Defendant,
STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

No. 12A02-0004-CR-230.

Court of Appeals of Indiana.

December 19, 2000.

Transfer Denied March 9, 2001.

740 N.E.2d 1242
Jeffrey J. Jinks, McMains Foster Jinks & Morse, Indianapolis, Indiana, Attorney for Appellant

Karen Freeman-Wilson, Attorney General of Indiana, Monika Prekopa Talbot, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana, Attorneys for Appellee.



Willie Washington was charged with and convicted of dealing in cocaine,1 a Class A

740 N.E.2d 1243
felony, and dealing in marijuana,2 a Class C felony. He appeals the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence of drugs found in his car. Washington asserts the anonymous tip authorities received, in light of the absence of officer-observed reasonable suspicion, did not satisfy Indiana and United States constitutional requirements for a valid investigatory detention. Although Washington raises other issues, we find the issue of his stop dispositive, and so address it exclusively

We reverse.3


Officer Curt Catron of the Clinton County Sheriff's Department was off-duty working a part-time security job in the early morning hours of February 3, 1998. An anonymous informant contacted the Lafayette State Police Post reporting a possible drunk driver. The informant advised that the driver, driving a black Cadillac with a white top, was southbound on Interstate 65. The informant also provided the license plate number of the Cadillac. Neither the identity nor the reliability of the informant was known or subsequently determined.

Officer Catron received the call and stationed himself at the roadside. When the Cadillac passed him, he began to follow it at mile marker 157. After following for approximately one-half mile, Officer Catron verified that the license number of the Cadillac was the same license number reported by the anonymous informant. Although Officer Catron did not observe evidence of drunken or erratic driving, he stopped the Cadillac at mile marker 155. Officer Catron testified that he stopped the Cadillac because he was concerned about the driver's medical condition. Washington, the driver of the Cadillac, told Officer Catron that his driver's license was suspended. Officer Catron advised Washington that he was under arrest. When Washington got out of the Cadillac, Officer Catron saw a brownish-green, leafy substance spread over the front seat. This substance was shown by a field test to be marijuana.

Washington refused permission to search the Cadillac, which was then towed to a nearby gas station where it was subjected to canine search. After the canine indicated the presence of narcotics, the Cadillac was transported to the Clinton County Sheriff's Department and stored until a search warrant was procured. Police found two duffel bags containing cocaine and sealed bricks of marijuana in the trunk of Washington's car.


We review the denial of a motion to suppress evidence in a manner similar to allegations of insufficient evidence. Taylor v. State, 689 N.E.2d 699, 702 (Ind. 1997). We do not reweigh the evidence, and we consider conflicting evidence most favorable to the trial court's ruling. Id. However, unlike the typical sufficiency of the evidence case where only the evidence favorable to the judgment is considered, in reviewing a denial of a motion to suppress, we must also consider the uncontested evidence most favorable to the defendant. Fair v. State, 627 N.E.2d 427, 434 (Ind. 1993).


Arguing under both the United States Constitution and the Indiana Constitution, Washington contends that the initial traffic stop by Officer Catron was improper because it was based solely on an anonymous tip, and as he committed no crime in the officer's presence, an investigatory stop was not warranted. We agree.

740 N.E.2d 1244
1. United States Constitutional Analysis

Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990), sets forth the long-held federal standard of anonymous tip validity. The police stopped White's vehicle after they received an anonymous telephone tip. A search of the car revealed drugs. The issue presented in White was whether the tip exhibited sufficient reliability to provide reasonable suspicion for the investigatory stop. The Supreme Court determined that the anonymous tip did provide reasonable suspicion for a Terry4 stop. Id. at 326-27, 110 S.Ct. 2412. The Court went on to explain that:

What was important was the caller's ability to predict [White's] future behavior, because it demonstrated inside information—a special familiarity with [White's] affairs. The general public would have had no way of knowing that [White] would shortly leave the building, get into the described car, and drive the most direct route to Dobey's Motel. Because only a small number of people are generally privy to an individual's itinerary, it is reasonable for police to believe that a person with access to such information is likely to also have access to reliable information about that individual's illegal activities.

Id. at 332, 110 S.Ct. 2412.

The assurance that the high court relied upon was that when "significant aspects of the caller's predictions were verified, there was reason to believe not only was the caller honest, but also that he was well-informed, at least well enough to justify the stop." Id. The anonymous tip, in combination with officer-observed activity that verified aspects of the caller's information, validated the information gained and substantiated the reasonable suspicion requirement for a legal Terry stop.

Similarly, the Seventh Circuit, in United States v. Price, 184 F.3d 637, 642 (7th Cir.1999) found that an anonymous tip that an amount of cocaine would be in a particular car, a description of the defendant and those traveling with him, where the trip originated, and where it would conclude, provided reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop.

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