Drug search OK despite address warrant being wrong

By The Associated Press

KOKOMO — A search that revealed drugs at a central Indiana house has been declared legal despite the address on the warrant being wrong.

The Indiana appeals court last week overturned a decision by a Howard County judge that threw out evidence against Ryan Stabler of Kokomo, the Kokomo Tribune reported . The property was “sufficiently described” in the search warrant and the mistake was an “innocent one,” according to the appeals court.

The decision means felony drug charges against Stabler, 31, will likely be filed again. He’s been in custody since January on bond violations.

Police last year discovered digital scales, heroin, methamphetamine and a ledger at Stabler’s home while completing a search warrant request. A judge signed off on the warrant, which described Stabler’s home but listed the wrong physical address.

Howard Superior Court Judge George Hopkins upheld a motion filed in October by Stabler to suppress the evidence found at his house. Hopkins ruled the affidavit and search warrant were invalid because of the wrong address, and that the affidavit didn’t provide the source or verify the credibility of the numerous complaints of illegal narcotics being sold from the house.

Prosecutors filed a motion to correct the address, but Hopkins denied the motion, resulting in Stabler’s charges to be dropped. Prosecutors then appealed the ruling, saying the documents met statutory requirements to establish probable cause.

In addition to overturning Hopkins’ ruling, the appeals court said Indiana courts have repeatedly upheld search warrants despite address errors, as long as the warrant otherwise sufficiently described the location to be searched.

“Although we do not condone the use of search warrants containing an incorrect street address, the warrant in this case sufficiently described the property to be searched despite the mistake,” the ruling said. “The record shows that the mistake was an innocent one.”

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