By on October 7, 2010

Cars in public parking lots can be searched at any time by police with drug sniffing dogs, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled last week. The precedent was handed down in the case of James S. Hobbs IV who was arrested on March 13, 2009. State troopers had an arrest warrant for Hobbs and were waiting for him across the street from the Pizza Hut where the suspect worked. At 9:15pm, Hobbs left the restaurant and placed an object in his car, but the police were not able to grab Hobbs before he returned to the restaurant.

While Hobbs was placed under arrest inside the Pizza Hut, a drug dog was used to search his car. Marijuana was found. A trial court ruled the search illegal because it was conducted without a warrant. The court of appeals disagreed, as did a divided supreme court.

Hobbs had argued that because he was in the restaurant under arrest, the usual “officer safety” excuse to search a vehicle did not apply, nor could the necessity of preserving evidence be used to excuse the lack of a search warrant because the arrest warrant for Hobbs had nothing to do with drug charges.

“Most cases addressing the automobile exception arise in the context of an arrest or an investigatory stop of a motorist that gives rise to probable cause, but the exception is grounded in the mobility of the vehicle and its location in a public area, not on whether the issue arises in the context of an arrest or a traffic stop,” Justice Theodore R. Boehm wrote for the majority. “Under the exception, an operational vehicle is inherently mobile, whether or not a driver is behind the wheel or has ready access…. It is well settled that a dog sniff is not a search protected by the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, no degree of suspicion is required to summon the canine unit to the scene to conduct an exterior sniff of the car or to conduct the sniff itself.”

Justices Frank Sullivan, Jr. and Robert D. Rucker did not think merely establishing that a car was “readily mobile” and “operational” justified the search, based on his reading of precedent.

“In every one of the cases cited by the court and in all of the automobile exception cases that I have reviewed, law enforcement officers’ initial contact with a suspect occurs either during a lawful traffic stop or at least in close proximity to the vehicle,” Sullivan wrote in the dissent. “Said slightly differently, in all of the cases where the automobile exception to the warrant requirement has been held available, the vehicle in question has been not only readily mobile and operational but also in close proximity to the suspect at the time of initial contact with the police.”

Because in this case Hobbs was nowhere near his vehicle when the search took place, police should have taken the time to obtain a warrant, Sullivan and Rucker argued.

A copy of the decision is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Indiana v. Hobbs (Supreme Court of Indiana, 9/30/2010)


Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

39 Comments on “Indiana Supreme Court Approves Drug Search of Cars in Public Lots...”

  • avatar

    An interesting article.  I am an attorney in Indiana and can tell you that the 3 judges in the majority are hardly considered to be particularly friendly to conservative or law & order issues (as compared to 25 years ago when the court would side with the State more or less automatically).  4 of the 5 judges were democratic appointments and the 5th, although a republican appointment from the mid 80s, is considered to be a bit liberal.

    I guess that the rule is that if a dog can smell it from outside of your car, the police can search the inside.  One more reason to not be in the drug-dealing business.

    • 0 avatar

      This makes me so angry I can hardly articulate a response.
      Typical yet antithetical to the conservative individual rights credo…Mr. Cavanaugh’s preemptive strike notwithstanding, this is what happens when convervatives rule.
      Legislation by “if you’re not breaking the law you have nothing to worry about”, nevermind your rights; let alone the ridiculousness of imprisoning marijuana users. (I am not one.)
      Another area Obama is Bush the 3rd…so disappointing. “but they’re keeping us safe!”
      What is it we stand for exactly?

    • 0 avatar

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but, per jpcavanaugh above, the judges were liberals and mostly Democrat appointed.

      Just another steaming cup of "Bush did it".

    • 0 avatar

      Contrarian, It is unfortunate you chose to respond to the most boring part of my post of how the current administration has not “changed” much of anything and you neglected the more salient points of individual rights, illegal search, marijuana use.
      And if you read it closely, you would note my acknowledgement of the Judge’s makeup.

      Time to move away from us vs them and get into a little more substance.

  • avatar

    I think they need a tire sniffing dog for that car, “Where’d they go Fido, find the tires, where’d they roll off to, good Fido.”

  • avatar

    These privacy cases are interesting. In all of them, the defendant is found to be engaged in illegal activity, but argues that privacy rights should have excluded the authorities from finding out about the illiegal activity. While on one hand you would like a crime to be exposed by whatever means necessary, on the other hand you can’t have the police proactively invading your privacy to hunt for a crime they have no evidence exists.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      The sad part is that it’s almost always too expensive to pursue a privacy violation if you were doing nothing wrong and nothing came of it. (I speak from experience.) Of course, what makes this kind of mission-creep even more creepy is that you may not even realize your rights have been infringed upon.
      This kind of erosion always reminds me of this friendly reminder from the UK:

  • avatar

    The question seems to be, is a private car parked in a public place, private?

    • 0 avatar

      That’s exactly right.
      Their basic conclusion is that the police can examine the exterior of your car if it is parked in a public place, and act on any probable cause found in that investigation.  To argue against that would be tantamount to saying…
      “If a police officer walks past a parked car with a bomb in it, he or she cannot act to disarm it because that visual search violates the rights of the vehicle’s owner.”
      The fact that it’s in public means that there is no expectation of privacy in regards to the exposed portions of the car.

    • 0 avatar

      Nobody’s arguing that the police cannot look at the exterior of the car. By using a drug-sniffing dog, you are effectively searching the interior. That’s the problem.
      I read the decision. I don’t like the smell of it. Even from a sniff at it, it stinks.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe it is a reasonable search.  It is like walking through a metal detector at an airport.  It is a reasonable search at that point, not an unreasonable one.  Now, had they opened the doors first to search without a drug dog to tell them something was in there, I would have agreed that it would have been unreasonable.

    • 0 avatar

      The only problem with likening the dog to a metal detector is that if you feel like the metal detector invades your privacy, you can avoid it.  Walk away.  The car wasn’t driven through the dog, the dog was brought to the car.
      Unrelated to that comment: In fact, the dog was brought to the car while the subject was under arrest inside a building for a warrant related to a completely different charge.  Maybe they should invade his home and check for pirated movies, falsified tax documents and porn.  When did putting something in your car during work hours become probable cause for a search?  I just walked out my office door and put a box of wedding invitations in my car, that doesn’t give the cops a right to check my car.

    • 0 avatar

      Another difference between metal detector and a dog is that a metal detector operates on a well-understood principle of electro-magnetism, whereas use of a dog relies on the principle of one animal interpreting the behavior of another in a completely unbiased and ethical manner.

  • avatar

    Here’s an idea: don’t break the law, and there will be no reason to arrest you or have your car searched.  I don’t care if every parking lot and traffic intersection has a drug-sniffing dog…I’m not doing anything illegal, so I won’t have a problem.

    • 0 avatar

      So don’t speed? Come to a complete stop at every stop sign? Don’t make an illegal u-turn? There’s a line to be drawn here.
      The bottom line is that if the cop follows you around long enough, or thinks hard enough, he could drum up *something* you’re doing that is illegal. Reasonable search and seizure needs to be observed here, and it doesn’t appear that it was.

    • 0 avatar
      Amendment X

      This is the mantra that I always hear that really gets on my nerves.
      “As long as you are not engaged in illegal activity you have nothing to fear.”
      See, that’s NOT point of the 4th Amendment. We have a the right to be secure in our persons and property because throughout history the government has made a habit of violating those rights. It does not matter what YOU are doing.
      This simple-minded thinking is what got us the disaster called the Patriot Act.

    • 0 avatar

      “We have a the right to be secure in our persons and property because throughout history the government has made a habit of violating those rights.”

      Please.  People love to complain about living in a totalitarian state where Big Brother is constantly blah blah blah.  Go live in Russia or Romania or Mexico for a while.  Our system of law enforcement works very well.  Quit whining that some drug dealer had his personal freedoms violated.  He was taken off the streets, and you and I are safer for it.

    • 0 avatar

      The main problem with the “if you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide” argument is it is a slope covered in blue ice.

      It’s all well and good to not do drugs or deal with such illicit activities. But what happens when a dealer runs from authorities on foot, and stashes their narcotics in an innocents tailpipe? What happens when said innocent’s car gets appropriated by the law? Innocent until proven guilty does not apply to seized property.

      Our law enforcement in my state has recently been pushing for the DAs to have complete access to prescription drug records. The usual authoritarians are clucking ‘if you’re doing nothing wrong, blah blah nothing to hide.’

      Yet, how about if you’re doing nothing wrong, but are living with chronic pain and can’t find a doctor who is willing to prescribe you appropriate pain relief? What if you’re doing nothing wrong, but the sheriffs department needs to buy a fleet of RWD V-8s at $85k a pop and goes for a fishing expedition with your medical records to knock down your door to find expired pills you took 8 months ago for your back surgery, and subsequently seizes all your property/assets?
      People forget how hard our ancestors fought for the 4th amendment. People think that everyone with authority is benevolent and looking out for their interests.

      Authoritarian simpletons, be they conservative or liberal, are doing a fantastic job of gutting the ideas that make our nation great. ‘If you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide’ is probably the most dangerous, lazy, and caustic sentiment a wannabe serf can utter. Go make your masters’ live’s easier. I plan on dying a free man.

    • 0 avatar

      “Please.  People love to complain about living in a totalitarian state where Big Brother is constantly blah blah blah.”
      ComfortablyNumb is perhaps the most fitting name I’ve come across on the internet.
      The difference between Russia/Mexico/Rumania/etc and our country is, our country had enough men with balls who knew how to tell authoritarians where they could put it. That was a couple hundred years ago. Now we’ve got enough fools actively undermining their own freedoms, after all, it only affects ‘the other.’
      Until it doesn’t.

  • avatar

    Interesting use of a photo for a story about Indiana laws. The red car looks like an Australian built Ford Falcon XE of XF model. The sniffer dog looks like its going over a RHD Mazda 626, or the badge engineered Ford Telstar. I never knew they made it to Indiana. Fancy that!

  • avatar

    Moral of the story: if you are dealing drugs (or any other illegal activity) don’t be cheap and park on the street. Spend the extra $5 and park in a private lot.


  • avatar

    Some of the least powerful lowest-paid folks are required to undergo pre-employment drug testing and subject to drug testing at any time demanded by the employer (with a few exceptions here and there dependent upon local statutes, etc.)
    How about those with the greatest power, the ability to affect multi-millions of folks? People with the power to alter an entire life or even take a life?
    Politicians, judges, many in law enforcement, those transferring billions of dollars here and there…
    heck, even administrators of your local schools.
    Those “esteemed” oh-so-important people within the “master class” should be required to undergo drug testing before the poor schmuck toting boxes at a minimal wage.
    If that chap in the article was embedded within the higher levels of the socio-economic pyramid how likely would his transgression been exposed by the local constabulary?
    The USA is extremely class-based despite the constant hammering by the upper-crust that We, the People are so gloriously equal.
    Reality trumps propaganda.

  • avatar

    Steven02, [for some reason my reply to you in the thread above got put way down here]

    I don’t think having a dog out sniffing cars in public places is anything like putting people entering a secure area through metal detectors. Very different, in my view.
    This decision gives police the authority to send drug-sniffing dogs out to look for drugs in any car parked in a public place. No suspicion needed. Open season on any car in sight.
    Need more fine money to balance the city budget? Send the canine unit out to the airport parking lot and see if you can find a few careless drivers who left marijuana or “paraphernalia” in their cars.
    Getting a warrant is not that hard. The cops should do that.

  • avatar

    This is a very slippery slope we are on my friends. Suppose a friend of your Daughter/Son comes to visit, and has marijuana in their pocket. A drug dog is being used in your neighborhood, and alerts on your house. Does this mean the police can enter your residence without a warrant? If rulings like this are allowed to stand, the answer will soon be yes. To those who say that if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about, talk to me in 20 years when you are about to board a plane and some $15 an hour TSA employee is looking up your A** with a flashlight because they think you might be hiding something. If the powers that be decide to outlaw tobacco in the future, will they employ the same tactics? If you let them they will. This is jackboot justice, and our founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves.

  • avatar

    Oh yeah and you better frisk your passenger before they enter your car because that coworker that you give a ride home b/c his car is broken (confiscated over the weekend b/c of his drug habit) could help you get your own car confiscated.
    I’m still trying to figure out why marijuana is so dangerous to America that we need to expend such great efforts and budgets to find and eradicate it. I’ve never used it but I have dealt with those who do many times working as military police and later working for a campus police department. The heavy drinkers were sometimes downright nasty and mean. Breaking stuff. Fighting. All sorts of anti-social behavior. The potheads on the other hand were the easiest going bunch you’ll ever deal with. I don’t want to go easy on the dealers but legalizing this stuff would go along way towards making the dealers redundant.
    Now naturally I don’t want my kids using this stuff or anyone doing something while high that could hurt  another person but I’d argue that the legal big drinkers have caused more death and injuries over the past 75 years than the potheads.
    How about we go after the real problems of society?

    • 0 avatar

      I could see it being legalized in the next 10 years.  Taxed, it’s a source of revenue instead of a huge sinkhole in the budget that could be spent elsewhere.  The general attitude towards it seems more relaxed because the morals which caused it to be banned in the first place aren’t as prevalent as they once were.  You figure the US would have learned it’s lesson after Prohibition but, what, 4 years later (?) marijuana was banned like alcohol once was.  Maybe the Feds just needed something to do…

    • 0 avatar

      Has anyone ever heard the idea that Prohibition was started to keep farmers from making alcohol that they could run their tractors and vehicles on? The front story was about morals while the back story was about protecting Standard Oil profits.
      What’s the truth here?

  • avatar

    What’s next if this is allowed? A SWAT team to deliver traffic ticket warrants?

    If the guy was being arrested for something that had nothing to do with pot, what the hell was a drug sniffing dog doing there in the first place?

    For me, Indiana just became another on my list of U.S. states to avoid. Land of the free….yeah right.

  • avatar

    Indiana has some very communist enforcement of seizure laws – i.e., it pays the constabulary very well to grab your property.
    Sure the State law says that the sheriff gets next to nothing, facts on the ground and court rulings prove otherwise.
    Easily found if one googles it.

    • 0 avatar

      Isn’t Indiana the state where they would come along and tax you on your possessions annually so people were hiding Tvs and stuff from the tax man? just a rumor to me.

  • avatar

    Maybe they need to drug sniff the vehicles valet parked for a $10,000 a plate political party support dinner attended by the politically connected movers and shakers…
    and you’ll see how fast this law is yanked.

  • avatar

    Lemme helpya,
    Drug dogs are trained to “alert” to a cue given by their handler – regardless of whether the dog has a drug/explosive reason to “alert” or not. Grow the Eff up.
    Dog not smelling anything? Irrelevant, as the handler has a wink/nod/cue that will make the dog “alert” regardless.  Which under the Bush/Hitler/Obama ‘Patriot Act’ gives one probable cause to do anything to a citizen w/o any of our Constitution protections being applied.

    • 0 avatar

      Drug dogs are trained to “alert” to a cue given by their handler – regardless of whether the dog has a drug/explosive reason to “alert” or not. Grow the Eff up.

      Dog not smelling anything? Irrelevant, as the handler has a wink/nod/cue that will make the dog “alert” regardless.  Which under the Bush/Hitler/Obama ‘Patriot Act’ gives one probable cause to do anything to a citizen w/o any of our Constitution protections being applied.
      That is absolutely true.  It happened to me once.  Luckily, the fascist cops finally gave up and let us go.  We didn’t have anything on us.  We hadn’t even been drinking.  They didn’t even have a reason to stop us.  That’s an hour of my life that I’ll never get back.   I should be thankful they didn’t plant a joint on us and lock us away.  That’s what happens when you give power-mad small town rednecks power.

    • 0 avatar

      Glad to hear that you escaped relatively unscathed. Sad to observe that escaping unscathed from an illegal search is something to be congratulated…
      That they didn’t “choose” to plant drugs/guns on you is a win – well handled on your part, esp were you not one of us white folk (natch, you’d be posting from jail if you weren’t).
      My GF’s Dobie was trained by the people who train PD dogs for the Metro area I reside in. Her step bro is a State Patrol officer. I wish I could tell all the stories I’ve heard…

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Superdessucke: I love the white walls on this! It looks like a Slovakian pimp mobile.
  • John R: I, for one, am glad that this thing even exists and I’m over the moon that it turned out as well as it...
  • quaquaqua: As the articles states, these cost the equivalent of $16-$17k in today’s dollars with barely any...
  • Arthur Dailey: @ArtV: Sorry that you feel that ‘the whole universe is against you’ and that all you have...
  • golden2husky: Elementary and middle school zones are 15, High school zones are 20. Just imagine driving 15 in a 40 at...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber