IN: Officers jumping over a locked gate to investigate a noise complaint was unreasonable under Indiana Constitution

Defendant was at a conservation club he was a member of, and, during a party at the club, members were shooting at a pizza box made into a target. Because it was a weeknight and late, a neighbor was disturbed by the continued noise and called the police about the possibility animals were being shot. Forty-five minutes later, officers arrived and the shooting was over. The property was marked by a locked gate, and one of those leaving had to wait for the gate to be unlocked. “Under these circumstances, the officers could have either: (1) waited for the gate to be unlocked and stopped persons on their way out, or (2) obtained a warrant. There was no reason to ignore a locked gate.” “The officers did not need to jump over a locked gate in order to investigate what amounted to a noise complaint.” Under the state constitution, the state carries the burden of proof of reasonableness of a search under the totality of the circumstances, and the state did not carry it. Conn v. State, 2017 Ind. App. LEXIS 871 (Dec. 20, 2017):

P1 For purposes of privacy interests protected by Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, closed doors matter, high fences matter, roped-off drives matter, closed drapes matter, and in this case, a closed and locked gate matters.

P2 Here, Conn appeals the trial court’s decision to admit evidence obtained during a search at a private conservation club, arguing that the warrantless entry and search of the club violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution.

P3 Because we conclude that the officers’ actions in this case were unreasonable under the circumstances, and therefore impermissible under Article 1, Section 11, we reverse and remand.

. . .

P12 Under Article 1, Section 11, the legality of a governmental search turns on an evaluation of the reasonableness of the police conduct under the totality of the circumstances. Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 359 (Ind. 2005). Our supreme court has explained that the reasonableness of a search or seizure necessitates a balancing of: (1) the degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that a violation has occurred, (2) the degree of intrusion the method of the search or seizure imposes on the citizen’s ordinary activities, and (3) the extent of law enforcement needs. Id. at 361. In evaluating these factors to determine whether police behavior in a given case was reasonable under Section 11, we consider each case on its own facts, and we construe the constitutional provision liberally so as to guarantee the rights of Hoosiers against unreasonable searches and seizures. Mundy v. State, 21 N.E.3d 114, 118 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014). Thus, it is the State’s burden to prove that the police intrusion was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances. Austin v. State, 997 N.E.2d 1027, 1034 (Ind. 2013).

. . .

P20 Taken together, these factors lead us to conclude that the State has not met its burden of establishing that the officers’ actions in this case were reasonable. The degree of concern, suspicion, or knowledge that a criminal violation had occurred or was occurring was minimal. The officers’ decision to maneuver over or around a locked gate to access private Club property represents a substantial level of intrusion. And finally, the extent of law enforcement needs was low. Accordingly, we hold that the officers’ conduct violated Article 1, Section 11. Because the evidence was obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure, it amounts to the fruit of the poisonous tree, and thus, the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted the evidence at trial. Gyamfi v. State, 15 N.E.3d 1131, 1138 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014).

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