Teen’s arrest did not violate 4th Amendment


Jennifer Nelson for www.theindianalawyer.com

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a teen’s adjudication for carrying a handgun handed down after police arrested the occupants of the car he was riding in after smelling burnt marijuana during a traffic stop. The judges unanimously held the officers had probable cause to arrest the car’s occupants, including the teen.

An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer pulled over a car with very dark tinted windows. He smelled burnt marijuana from inside the car, where K.K. was a passenger in the back seat. The three occupants denied that any drugs or weapons were present, and the three were briefly patted down and handcuffed. Another officer believed K.K. was acting nervous and conducted another pat down and found a loaded handgun in his pocket.

K.K., who was 17 at the time, was adjudicated as a delinquent child for committing what would be Class A misdemeanor dangerous possession of a firearm if committed by an adult.

In K.K. v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1410-JV-687, he argued that the odor of burnt marijuana emanating from the car did not provide probable cause for the officers to arrest him and the other two occupants, which led to the search of K.K. and the discovery of the gun.

The appellate judges relied on Edmond v. State, 951 N.E.2d 585, 591 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011), Bell v. State, 13 N.E.3d 543, 544-45 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), and Lessley v. City of Madison, Indiana, 654 F.Supp.2d 877 (S.D. Ind. 2009), to support their decision that probable cause existed to arrest the occupants of the car in which K.K. was a passenger.

“K.K. suggests that the Edmond decision requires that, for probable cause to exist, the officer must not only smell marijuana emanating from the vehicle, but, in addition, the defendant driver must be alone in the vehicle when the smell is detected, and the officer must detect it on the individual’s person or breath. To the extent that Edmond could be interpreted to require the presence of all of these factors, we respectfully decline to follow it. In our view, whether the defendant is alone and whether the odor of marijuana – burnt or raw – is also present on an individual or his breath are factors to be considered in the analysis, not bright-line prerequisites necessary for probable cause to exist,” Judge James Kirsch wrote.

Since the judges found the arrest was supported by probable cause, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the firearm to be admitted into evidence because it was discovered pursuant to a lawful search incident to K.K.’s arrest.