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Indiana Search and Seizure Laws

search and seizure laws indiana

Search and Seizure Rules in Indiana Criminal Law

Nearly everyone has heard of Miranda warnings, but not everyone understands exactly what they mean or that there are other important cases pertaining to Indiana search and seizure law. This blog will review three of the most important search and seizure cases in Indiana, Miranda, Pirtle and Gant.

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966)

Miranda v. Arizona is probably the most well known case of the three. Most people have heard of Miranda warnings, whether they have had any experience in the criminal justice system or not. Turn on any crime show on TV, and you’ve likely heard a police officer read someone their Miranda rights, the most common version being, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” 

But why do the police read these rights? In Miranda, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination extends to the police interrogation of a suspects, and that law enforcement officials must advise suspects of their right to remain silent and to obtain an attorney during interrogations while in police custody. If they do not advise suspects of these rights, any statements that arise from police questioning must be suppressed, or excluded from trial.

Pirtle v State of Indiana, 323 N.E.2d 634 (1975)

While Miranda generally deals with statements and was decided in the US Supreme Court, Pirtle deals with police searches and was decided by the Indiana Supreme Court.

In Pirtle, Robert Pirtle was being questioned by officers. One officer read him his Miranda warnings, but he did not waive his rights. Later, another officer asked Pirtle for consent to search his apartment and evidence was found. He later argued that the consent to search was not voluntary because he had asked for an attorney and any evidence should be suppressed. 

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that once a person is in custody (not free to leave), if they are asked to give consent to search, they are entitled to the presence and advice of counsel prior to making the decision whether to give such consent. The right, of course, may be waived, but the burden is on the State to show that such waiver was explicit, and, as in Miranda, the State will be required to show that the waiver was not occasioned by the defendant’s inability to afford an attorney. 

Now, when the police want to ask for consent to search and the person is in custody, they must read the Pirtle warnings and inform the person “you have the right to require that a search warrant be obtained before any search of your residence, vehicle or other premises.  You have the right to refuse to consent to any such search. You have the right to consult with an attorney prior to giving consent to any such search.  If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to have an attorney provided to you at no cost.”

Arizona v. Gant, 556 US 332 (2009)

Arizona v. Gant was another US Supreme Court case. This is a more recent case and changed how and when the police can search a person’s vehicle after an arrest. 

Prior to the Court deciding Gant, when someone was arrested after being stopped while driving, the police would conduct a search of the vehicle incident to arrest. This led to people often being stopped for something fairly minor, such as driving while suspended, being arrested, and then the police conducting a full search of the vehicle to try and find evidence of other crimes, such as drugs or illegal guns. 

In Gant, however, the Court ruled that the police may only search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to an arrest only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrested person might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest. 

Thus, if a person is arrested for only driving while suspended and is in custody, away from the vehicle, if the police want to search the car they would need valid consent or a warrant. Unless there is reason to believe there is evidence in the car related to the offense the person was arrested for, they can no longer search every car after every arrest. 

Questions about Indiana Search and Seizure Laws?

At Chambers Law Office, we handle all types of criminal cases throughout central Indiana, including search and seizure issues and motions to suppress evidence. As a former Marion County deputy prosecutor, Julie Chambers has experience in the criminal courts on both sides of the aisle. If you have questions about a criminal case or search and seizure issue, Chambers Law Office can help. 

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