The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld the felony conviction of a man found guilty in Porter County three years ago of carrying a handgun without a license with a prior felony conviction within the last 15 years.

Carl Dahlin argued that police violated his Constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures, when on Dec. 25, 2015, they removed a handgun case from his vehicle without a warrant.

Dahlin, who was found guilty by a jury in June 2016 before Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, also argued the evidence presented during the trial was insufficient to support his conviction.

"We conclude that any error in the admission of evidence regarding the case and the handgun was harmless and that the evidence is sufficient to support Dahlin's conviction," according to the appellate court ruling.

Dahlin, who had been released from jail on Dec. 20, 2015, after serving time for two felony counts of theft, was taken back into custody five days later after he was found slumped over in his vehicle outside of a Valparaiso gas station, according to court documents.

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After getting Dahlin's attention and watching him fumble with a backpack on the front passenger seat, the police officer saw a black Glock handgun case partially beneath the backpack, according to court records. When asked, Dahlin said he had a gun in the car and that it was on the passenger floor, but that it belonged to his father.

The appellate court ruled, in part, that the officer "did not actually conduct a search of Dahlin's car." The officer saw the handgun in open view, which triggers a legal doctrine that "is used in situations in which a law enforcement officer sees contraband from an area that is not constitutionally protected, but rather is in a place where the officer is lawfully entitled to be," according to the appellate court.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.