– DCS received a tip that a meth lab might be in someone’s basement. A DCS employee and police officer went to the home. The person who answered the door stated that they were the only adult in the home. The person also gave consent for the Officer and DCS worker to enter. “Officer Hood testified he saw aluminum foil with burned residue, Q-tips with blood on them, pipes with burned residue, and starter fluid — all of which Officer Hood believed were associated with drug use.” Id. At 538. “About a minute after entering the basement, the caseworker saw Δ hiding behind a water heater in a corner. Officer Gregory Hood detained Harris. Officer Hood told Harris he was not under arrest but placed him in ‘handcuffs for his and [Officer Hood’s] protection.’ (Tr. at 121.) Officer Hood then asked Harris whether he had any weapons on him. Harris reported a pocketknife in his right front pocket. Officer Hood patted Harris’ right front pocket and felt ‘bulky, metallic objects.’ Officer Hood removed a knife, a large key ring, and a blue plastic pill bottle. Harris was cooperative and did not make any furtive movements or attempt to flee. Officer Hood shined a flashlight through the bottle and saw ‘a silhouette of a baggie . . . and maybe a powdery-looking substance in there.’ His prior training and experience led him to believe the bottle contained a controlled substance. He then removed the lid to see the substance inside the bottle. After searching inside the bottle, Officer Hood confirmed Harris had an outstanding warrant and placed him under arrest. Another officer took Harris to jail. Officer Hood then went to the police department where the substance in the bottle was determined to be methamphetamine.” Id. at 536-537. “Officer Hood needed to ensure he removed all potentially dangerous items. Accordingly, the removal of the pill bottle was permissible under Terry.” Id. at 538. “Officer Hood’s warrantless search inside the pill bottle went beyond the scope permitted by Terry. . . A two-part test governs the admissibility of contraband seized during a Terry search: (1) whether the contraband was detected during an initial patdown for weapons rather than during a further search; and (2) whether the identity of the contraband was immediately apparent to the officer.” Id. at 538-539. “The contraband was detected only after Officer Hood shined a light into the bottle and opened it. Officer Hood could not have immediately identified the contents of the bottle as contraband by touch or sight because it was inside a blue pill bottle. Officer Hood never testified he thought the bottle might contain a weapon.” Id. at 539. “The search at issue did not occur incident to arrest. While Officer Hood’s removal of the pill bottle was reasonable under Terry, his subsequent search inside it was outside the scope of Terry. Therefore, the court abused its discretion when it admitted the evidence at Harris’ trial, and we must reverse his conviction.” Id. at 539. The search of the pill bottle must be suppressed. Harris v. State, 878 N.E.2d 534 (Ind.App.2007).
– The seizure of a pill bottle from a person during a Terry search is unreasonable. A man was searched for weapons before being given a chemical test for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. During the search, the officer pulled out an amber-colored pill bottle containing a controlled substance. Id. at 277. The Court held that the warrantless seizure of the pills was unjustified as the identity of the pills was not immediately apparent to the officer. After removing the pill bottled, it was still unclear to the officer whether the items within the bottle were contraband or prescription medication. Therefore, the seizure of the items was beyond the scope of a Terry search for weapons and did not satisfy the plain feel doctrine. Burkett v. State, 785 N.E.2d 276, 278-279 (Ind. App. 2003)
– The reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop does not allow the examination of the contents of things carried by the person being searched. Berry v. State, 704 N.E.2d 462 (Ind. 1998).
– A search within a cigarette pack that seemed to have an odd weight distribution went beyond a Terry search. – Barfield v. State, 776 N.E.2d 404 (Ind. App. 2002).
If you are in need of an Indiana expungement attorney, Indiana criminal defense attorney, or forfeiture attorney, please call me for a free consultation at 317-695-7700. I have personally defended thousands of cases, teach criminal law at the IU School of Law, am a top rated attorney, and have practiced criminal defense my entire career. Additional information about my office is available on the home page and the in the news page.
DISCLAIMER – The information contained on this website is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice or as an offer to perform legal services on any subject matter. The content of this web site contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments or information. The information is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or current. We make no warranty, expressed or implied, about the accuracy or reliability of the information at this website or at any other website to which it is linked. Recipients of content from this site should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in the site without seeking appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in the recipient’s state. Nothing herein is intended to create an attorney-client relationship and shall not be construed as legal advice. This is not an offer to represent you, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship.