- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Supreme Court has decided to consider a case that deals with police searches.

The high court on Monday announced it would hear written and oral arguments in a case that weighs whether a police officer can legally open a pill container found in the pocket of a person who’s under arrest.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in February that Indianapolis police violated the state constitutional rights of Antonio Garcia when an officer opened a container in his pocket, The (Munster) Times (https://bit.ly/1FrXvsz ) reported. The officer found half of a narcotic pain relief pill that ultimately was used as evidence to convict Garcia for possession of a controlled substance.

Garcia was stopped by police in August 2012 for driving without headlights at dusk and failing to signal a lane change. He ultimately was arrested for driving without a license.

An officer found a small metallic cylinder in Garcia’s pants pocket during a pat-down. The officer opened the container and recognized the pill inside as a narcotic pain reliever.

Garcia was charged because he wasn’t immediately able to provide a prescription. But he testified at trial that he found the pill container earlier that day while cleaning out his late aunt’s bedroom and stuck it in his pocket so his 9-year-old son wouldn’t accidentally find it. He later provided a pharmacy record showing his late aunt had a prescription for the pain reliever.

Although the appeals court said that police are empowered under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to open and search items like a pill container following an arrest, it also noted that the Indiana Constitution provides protections from police searches that are more extensive than the Fourth Amendment, and requires the state to show any police intrusion into private property is reasonable.

In overturning Garcia’s conviction, the Court of Appeals ruled there was no evidence that the container found in Garcia’s pocket threatened police officer safety or held illegal substances.

However, that decision is negated by the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision to review the case.

The high court likely will issue its verdict sometime next year.


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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