INDIANAPOLIS—When a GPS tracking device placed on a suspected drug dealer’s vehicle was removed, police obtained a warrant to search his home on the grounds that the small black box was stolen.

That search, which took place in Warrick County in July 2018, led to the discovery of drugs and drug paraphernalia. As a result, Derek Heuring was charged with an array of felony drug charges plus a misdemeanor for the theft of the tracking device, all of which could land him in prison for many years.

But Heuring, through his attorney, Michael Keating, has challenged the warrant that led to his arrest. He argues that the search based on the alleged theft of the tracking device was bogus and all evidence should be thrown out as a violation of the 4th Amendment protection against an unlawful search and seizure.

After losing that argument before the court in Warrick County and again in the state appellate court, Heuring appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court, which heard the case Thursday.

Keating argued that the Class A misdemeanor theft charge and the subsequent drug-related charges from the search were unprecedented because law enforcement had no reason to suspect that that Heuring stole the tracking device.

Keating cited the state code on theft, arguing that Heuring could not have knowingly exercised “unauthorize control” or “deprive” the state of anything because he couldn’t have known the unmarked device actually belonged to the government.

“Any officer should know this is not evidence of a theft,” Keating said.

Jesse R. Drum, supervising deputy attorney general, argued the police followed procedure and gave Heuring the benefit of the doubt prior to the discovery that the device was missing from the vehicle. He maintained that the police were simply trying to get the tracking device back through the warrant.

The judges pointedly questioned both the Keating and Drum about how Heuring could have known the device was property of law enforcement without any indication on the device itself or notification in person.

Drum said that Heuring had cameras outside his home and could have looked to see who placed the device on the vehicle.

Keating argued there is no proof the cameras were working or that Heuring even checked them prior to removing the device.

When asked who should bear the risk for the loss of the equipment, Keating replied that since it wasn’t clearly identified as the property of the Warrick County Sheriff’s Department, “they should bear the risk of loss.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush questioned if any police misconduct had occurred.

Brynna Sentel is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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