Attorneys for Appellee
Karen M. Freeman-Wilson
Attorney General of Indiana
Timothy W. Beam
Deputy Attorney General
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below ).
) Supreme Court No.
August 3, 2001
Officer Sawyer asked Brooks for his drivers license and vehicle registration. Brooks
gave the officer his identification, but said that he could not find the
registration. Defendant offered an explanation that the truck was owned by his
See footnote Officer Sawyer asked Defendant for his identification, but Defendant gave
the officer an out-of-state drivers license and a triple A card both belonging
to one Marvin Allen. The officer noticed that the age and picture
portrayed on the out-of-state license did not match Defendants characteri
Officer Sawyer returned to his patrol car to run a check on the
license plate number and discovered that one James Frame was the owner of
the truck. The officer also found that the Marvin Allen, described on
the drivers license given by Defendant, had a warrant out for his arrest.
At that point, Sergeant Randy Kantner arrived at the scene. Officer
Sawyer conveyed to Sergeant Kantner that he suspected the truck was stolen.
Officer Sawyer returned to the truck and questioned Brooks about the owner, but
Brooks claimed that he did not know and that he was driving it
for Defendant. Officer Sawyer placed Brooks in the police car until he
could verify the true owner. Meanwhile, Sergeant Kantner recognized Defendant as William
Woodford, and Defendant confirmed his true identity. Officer Sawyer then arrested Defendant
for false informing. Officer Sawyer also ran a background check on Defendant
and discovered that Defendant had an outstanding warrant for possession of cocaine.
Brooks and Defendant were transported to the police station for investigation.
After Officer Sawyer was unable to verify the true owner of the truck
at the scene, he took the truck into police custody. At the
Goshen police station, Officer Sawyer continued his efforts to find the true owner,
but was unsuccessful. At that point, Officer Sawyer decided to impound the
vehicle and perform an inventory search pursuant to standard Goshen Police Department policy.
Under the passengers seat, Officer Sawyer discovered nine individually wrapped pieces of
a controlled substance later identified as 3.2 grams of crack cocaine. The
officer also found a baggy containing what was later determined to be .04
grams of heroin. At some point, Officer Sawyer received a stolen vehicle
report from Elkhart City Police Department that matched the pickup truck in which
Defendant was arrested.
The State charged Defendant with Possession of Cocaine in Excess of Three Grams
With Intent to Deliver, a Class A Felony,
Possession of Heroin, a Class
and with being a Habitual Offender.See footnote On January 27,
2000, Defendant filed a motion to suppress the cocaine evidence, but the trial
court denied the motion. The jury found Defendant guilty on all counts.
The trial court sentenced Defendant to three years for possession of heroin
and 40 years for dealing in cocaine, both to be served concurrently.
The trial court then enhanced the sentence by 30 years for the habitual
offender determination, which was to be served consecutively with the dealing in cocaine
sentence. Defendant was sentenced to a total of 70 years in prison.
The Fourth Amendment
protects persons from unreasonable search and seizure and this pr
has been extended to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. U.S. Const.
amend. IV; Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 650 (1961). Generally, the
Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless searches and seizures. See Trowbridge v. State, 717
N.E.2d 138, 143 (Ind. 1999), rehg denied. When a search is conducted
without a warrant, the State has the burden of proving that an exception
to the warrant requirement existed at the time of the search. See
Berry v. State, 704 N.E.2d 462, 465 (Ind. 1998) (citing Brown v. State,
691 N.E.2d 438, 443 (Ind. 1998)). One well-recognized exception to the warrant
requirement is an inventory search of a vehicle. See Colorado v. Bertine,
479 U.S. 367, 371 (1987); South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 372
(1976); Fair v. State, 627 N.E.2d 427, 431 (Ind. 1993).
In determining the propriety of an inventory search, the threshold question is whether
the impoundment itself was proper. See Fair, 627 N.E.2d at 430.
An impoundment is warranted when it is part of routine administrative caretaking functions
of the police, see Opperman, 428 U.S. at 370 n.5, or when it
is authorized by state statute, see Goliday v. State, 708 N.E.2d 4, 7
(Ind. 1999); see, e.g., Ind. Code § 9-18-2-43 (1998). To prove a valid
inventory search under the community caretaking function, the State must demonstrate that: (1)
the belief that the vehicle posed some threat or harm to the community
or was itself imperiled was consistent with objective standards of sound policing, and
(2) the decision to combat that threat by impoundment was in keeping with
established departmental routine or regulation.
Fair, 627 N.E.2d at 433.
In this case, Officer Sawyers justification for taking the truck into police custody was that he suspected that it was stolen. His belief was based on the fact that Defendant presented false identification and Defendant claimed that the truck belonged to an individual named Mike yet the check on the plate number revealed that the owners name was James Frame. Officer Sawyer and Sergeant Kantner repeatedly questioned both Defendant and Brooks regarding the true identity of the owner, but to no avail. Indeed, both Defendant and Brookss lawful possession of the pickup truck was in doubt. The decision to impound was made after the ownership of the truck could not be verified See footnote and after Defendant had been lawfully arrested for false informing. The stolen vehicle report on the pickup truck, which was received later that day, confirms that the arresting officers decision to impound the truck was reasonable under the circumstances. We find that the arresting officers decision to impound the pickup truck was justified. See Opperman, 428 U.S. at 369 (noting that one caretaking function justifying impoundment is when the police attempt to determine whether a vehicle has been stolen ... .); see also Vehorn v. State, 717 N.E.2d 869, 875 (Ind. 1999) (ruling that impoundment was justified where the defendant-driver was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in a vehicle that was reported stolen); Fair, 627 N.E.2d at 433 (recognizing that the community caretaking function is implicated where ownership of the vehicle cannot be established) (citing United States v. Young, 825 F.2d 60, 651(1984), cert. denied, 485 U.S. 1012 (1988), and Madison v. United States, 512 A.2d 279 (D.C. 1986)).
Next, we must determine whether the scope of the inventory search was lawful.
To pass constitutional muster, the search itself must be performed pursuant to standard police procedures. See Vehorn, 717 N.E.2d at 875 (citing Fair, 627 N.E.2d at 435) (citing in turn Bertine, 479 U.S. at 375). In this case, Officer Sawyer testified that when he conducted the inventory search, he followed written department policy. Officer Sawyer testified that while performing the inventory search, he opened the passenger side door and in plain view, he saw a clear plastic baggie containing a rock-like substance which appeared to be cocaine located underneath the passenger seat. (R. at 237-38, 339.) Officer Sawyer testified further that in plain view, he observed a folded dollar bill and inside found a white powder substance, identified as heroin. (R. at 238, 341.) Officer Sawyer listed all items in the inventory form, not just the incriminating evidence. Pursuant to standard departmental policy, the officer completed and signed a standard inventory form.
Because the Goshen police officers were justified in impounding the pickup truck and
followed standard operating procedures, the inventory search was reasonable. The trial court
properly denied Defendants motion to suppress.
In order to obtain a conviction on this charge as a Class B
Felony, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1)
possessed cocaine (2) with intent to deliver. See Ind. Code § 35-48-4-1(a)(2);
Lampkins v. State, 682 N.E.2d 1268, 1274-75 (Ind. 1997). The conviction is
elevated to a Class A Felony if the State proves beyond a reasonable
doubt that the amount of cocaine possessed weighed three grams or more.
See id. § 35-48-4-1(b)(1).
When reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, this Court neither reweighs the
evidence nor assesses the credibility of the witnesses. See Brasher v. State,
746 N.E.2d 71, 72 (Ind. 2001). We only consider the evidence most
favorable to the jurys verdict, along with all reasonable inferences to be drawn
therefrom, and will affirm a conviction if the probative evidence and reasonable inferences
drawn from the evidence could have led the jury to find a defendant
guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. See Chambliss v. State, 746 N.E.2d 73,
77 (Ind. 2001).
As discussed in Part I supra, a lawful inventory search of the pickup
truck led to the discovery of nine individually wrapped rocks of what Officer
Sawyer believed to be cocaine underneath the passenger seat. At trial, forensic
scientist specializing in drug analysis Jill McBride testified that she randomly selected two
of the rocks and that this representative sample tested positive for cocaine.
McBride did not test the remaining seven rocks. She testified that all
nine rocks were consistent in color, dryness, and wetness, which generally shows that
they are all the same substance. (R. at 493.) It is
an undisputed fact that one tested rock crack weighed .33 grams, and the
other weighed .43 grams. It is also undisputed that the total weight
of the nine rocks equaled 3.21 grams.
On appeal, Defendant does not challenge the element of possession under Indiana Code
§ 35-48-4-1(a)(2). Rather, he contends that because the forensic scientist only tested
two of the nine rocks seized, an amount totaling only .76 grams of
cocaine, the State did not meet its burden that the amount of cocaine
was over three grams as required by Indiana Code § 35-48-4-1(b)(1). Defendant
argues that her testimony was insufficient to establish that the seven untested rocks
were cocaine, Appellants Br. at 14, thus there was insufficient evidence to convict
him of dealing in cocaine.
For a dealing in cocaine conviction, this Court has said, The total weight
of the delivered drug and not its pure component is to be considered
in prosecutions. Riley v. State, 711 N.E.2d 489, 493 (Ind. 1990) (upholding
a dealing in cocaine conviction in an amount of three grams or more
where the lab technician performed a sample tested positive for cocaineone group of
packages weighed 10.15 grams, and the other group weighed 6.21 grams) (quoting Tobias
v. State, 479 N.E.2d 508, 511 (Ind. 1985), rehg denied.); see also Evans
v. State, 566 N.E.2d 1037, 1042 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991) (rejecting the defendants
argument that there was insufficient evidence in dealing in cocaine in the amount
of three grams or more because the lab technician did not test each
individual rock cocaine). Here, it is undisputed that the total weight of
the nine rocks equaled 3.21 grams, and the two-rock sample from this group
tested positive for cocaine. As such, the testing of a representative sample
consisting of two rocks of cocaine was sufficient for Defendants dealing in cocaine
conviction. Because it is within the jurys province to assess the credibility
of all witnesses and weigh the evidence, we will not reassess or reweigh
on review the evidence it heard. The evidence was ample to support
the jurys verdict.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.