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Indiana Court of Appeals: Observations of Animal Cruelty Give Rise to Exigent Circumstances
Posted in Litigation

Addressing an issue of first impression in Indiana law, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Thursday that “circumstances of animal cruelty may create exigent circumstances to permit a warrantless search of the curtilage,” and that the results of the curtilage search may provide probable cause for a further search of the property.

In Davis v. State, the defendant’s neighbors called the police after noting a strong stench coming from his property and observing his dogs barking and carrying their empty food dishes.  The first officer to arrive, Deputy Joiner, smelled the stench and entered the property, finding malnourished dogs, an animal carcass, and items used in breeding and training fighting dogs.  Another officer, Detective Weaver, arrived later.  Detective Weaver interviewed neighbors, walked onto the defendant’s property, and noticed the same conditions as Deputy Joiner.  Detective Weaver then drafted a probable cause affidavit and obtained a search warrant to inspect all buildings on the property for items associated with animal fighting. 

On appeal, the defendant argued that evidence obtained from the search warrant should have been excluded as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The defendant conceded that Deputy Joiner’s initial warrantless search was proper, but argued that the warrant was based upon Detective Weaver’s warrantless re-entry of the curtilage.

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed that Detective Weaver’s warrantless re-entry of the curtilage violated the Fourth Amendment.  However, the Court explained that the probable cause affidavit also included observations from Deputy Joiner’s search that were relayed to Detective Weaver, and noted that “[p]robable cause may be based on the collective information known to the law enforcement organization as a whole.”  The Court concluded that the probable cause affidavit included enough information from Deputy Joiner’s proper search to render it valid and the evidence legally obtained.

To learn more about Meaghan Klem Haller and her practice, please visit her profile.

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    Meaghan describes herself as an “unapologetic advocate” who will be upfront and honest with clients and thoroughly prepared on the law and facts of her cases.  She focuses her practice on corporate governance disputes, breaches ...



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