Topic: Crime Scene Investigation
Resource: Cases
Record Upload Date: April 3, 2006
Case Name: Myers v. State
Citation: 839 N.E. 2d 1154 (Ind. 2005)
Case Description:

Defendant, John P. Meyers, appealed his motion, which was denied in both the trial and appellate courts, to suppress evidence arising out of a search of his car in a school parking lot. During a school wide search a narcotics dog alerted the inspectors to the defendant's car. During the inspection conducted by school officials, and assisted by the police, a firearm was found in the car. The defendant was charged with a class D felony and later motioned to suppress evidence resulting from the aforementioned search of his car.

The court held that school officials are held to a different, and less strict, standard for conducting searches of students than the police and in this instance, the school officials, not the police, were conducting the search of the car. The defendant alleged that the dog sniff of his car was unconstitutional, however the court held that dog sniffs are not one of the searches requiring the standard of probable cause enumerated in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The defendant also alleged that dog sniffs must be based upon a reasonable suspicion on an individual basis. However, the court held that suspicion of the defendant individually was not necessary and that there was no violation in conducting a dog sniff test on a parked car while the defendant was in school. The court recognizes that dog sniff tests that are conducted on the outside of a car do not constitute a violation of ones constitutional rights, and thus the search of the defendants car was constitutional.

The defendant further alleged that the search of his car was done inappropriately in that the searching authorities did not obtain a warrant before searching his car. The search of the defendants car was conducted by the school and the court held that a standard of reasonableness is applied to determine if the search was appropriate. The court held that the search was reasonable because the search of the vehicle took place after being alerted by a narcotics dog and because the school only searched places which were alerted to by the narcotics dog.

The dissent presents a different view of the constitutionality of the use of narcotics dogs. The dissent articulates that the majority relied upon case law in which the use of narcotics dogs followed a legal and appropriate traffic stop, unlike here where the dog was used on an unattended parked car. The dissent comments that it is unconstitutional to use a narcotics dog on a car legally parked in a parking lot without a reasonable suspicion that the car is involved in a criminal activity.

Notes Comments:

Date of decision: December 21, 2005

Docket Number: 72S01-0406-CR-249

Court: Indiana Supreme Court