State Appeals Court Upholds Starke Circuit Court Conviction

 The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a Knox man’s conviction on a drug charge from 2013. A jury found Alfred Higdon guilty of possession of methamphetamine as a Class D felony. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Higdon’s appeal claims the trial court erroneously admitted evidence that was the product of an illegal search by law enforcement.

Court documents indicate Detective Dave Combs with the Knox Police Department got an anonymous tip in April of 2013 that Higdon and Shari Melton were making meth at a local residence. Combs was familiar with both Higdon and the residence, having responded to a report there in 2012 that Higdon’s van had been broken into. Combs checked the house and noted the same van from that incident was parked outside. Officers also checked the national pseudoephedrine purchase records and found Higdon had bought the drug 21 times since 2008 and had been blocked twice from making purchases. Pseudoephedrine is the main ingredient in meth production. On April 15, 2013, a Knox Police Officer retrieved trash bags that had been left on the street in front of Higdon’s house for collection. They contained evidence of meth production, according to court records.

Combs got a search warrant for Higdon’s residence, which was served on April 25, 2013. That search turned up marijuana, synthetic marijuana, lithium batteries and methamphetamine. Higdon’s appeal claims the warrant was based on evidence gathered during an illegal search of his trash. The appeals court’s ruling notes a trash search is reasonable if law enforcement retrieves it in “substantially the same manner as the trash collector would take it” and if police believe the subject of the search was engaged in illegal activity. The court also ruled the anonymous tip Combs received provided reasonable suspicion to search Higdon’s trash, as the tipster mentioned him by name and shared other identifying information. The ruling also notes Higdon did not object during his 2014 jury trial to the admission of the evidence he challenged on appeal.