Indiana court rules police who found drugs had OK to search home to make sure fit for child


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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that police had permission to search the home of a man convicted on drug charges after they found his daughter wandering half-naked in an apartment complex, even though the officers had no warrant.

By a 5-0 ruling Friday, the court upheld Nick McIlquham's conviction on neglect, firearms and drug-related charges.

Court documents said police found a toddler girl roaming half-naked, eating Cheerios off the ground near an Indianapolis apartment complex retention pond in July 2011. McIlquham walked up and told officers he had dozed off while watching the child, the ruling said.

McIlquham then invited police to inspect his apartment to make sure it was safe for the girl, whose age was not given in the ruling.

When police entered the apartment, McIlquham allegedly headed for the kitchen and began making furtive movements toward his pockets. When police patted him down, they found marijuana, the document said. They also found baggies, cash and digital scales on the kitchen counter.

McIlquham allegedly told police he "sometimes" lived in the apartment but that the girl's mother had signed the lease. Police called the woman and she came to the apartment and consented to a search, during which officers found a loaded handgun in a case under the bed, the ruling said. McIlquham told police the items belonged to him and the woman was unaware of them.

In court, McIlquham pleaded guilty to charges of child neglect and possession of marijuana and consented to a bench trial at which he was acquitted of dealing in marijuana but convicted on charges of possession of paraphernalia and illegal possession of a firearm due to a previous conviction. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

McIlquham appealed, arguing the search was unconstitutional because he and the child's mother were only allowing police to make sure the home was fit for the child and police lacked a warrant for any further search.

The Court of Appeals and Supreme Court both upheld McIlquham's conviction, holding that the couple had consented to the search.

"It was Defendant who initially approached police and not vice versa," the Supreme Court said.

"Accordingly, when Defendant told police 'it was okay' to check the apartment, we find no reason not to take his consent at face value," the justices added.

The court found the child's mother also consented to the search.

The Associated Press left a message Saturday seeking comment from McIlquham's attorney.

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Follow Charles D. Wilson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/_cdwilson

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