IN: Automobile exception search of locked safe in car was reasonable

A warrantless automobile exception search of a locked safe in a car was reasonable under the state constitution. It didn’t intrude on the defendant’s normal activities. Washburn v. State, 2019 Ind. App. LEXIS 149 (Apr. 8, 2019):

P21 Washburn argues that the State did not introduce any evidence to suggest that the safe or its contents were not secure or were in any danger of spoiling while a warrant was obtained. Appellant’s Br. at 13. Furthermore, there appeared to be no shortage of time to obtain a warrant. Id. Our Supreme Court has said, “When armed with probable cause, law enforcement officers are faced with a continuum of ostensibly reasonable activity, from doing nothing to search and seizure. Seeking a warrant is a means for them to reduce the risk that their proposed intrusive activity will fall outside that continuum, and that evidence will have to be suppressed in court.” Brown v. State, 653 N.E.2d 77, 80 (Ind. 1995). Here, Washburn was under arrest, his passenger had been released at the scene, and his car was being towed. While we agree that the law enforcement needs were relatively low, balanced against the concern that drugs would be found in the safe and the minimal intrusion on Washburn’s ordinary activities, the weight favors a determination that the search was reasonable. Accordingly, we conclude that the search and seizure of evidence from the safe was permissible under Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. Randall v. State, 101 N.E.3d 831, 842 (Ind. Ct. App. 2018) (finding a seizure reasonable under the Indiana Constitution notwithstanding law enforcement needs being relatively low), trans. denied.

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