Whitacre v. Indiana

619 N.E.2d 605 (1993)

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Whitacre v. Indiana

Indiana Court of Appeals
619 N.E.2d 605 (1993)

Facts

Robert Whitacre (defendant) and his wife, who were amateur archaeologists, discovered Indian artifacts on a farm in Indiana. The owner of the farm granted the Whitacres permission to excavate and remove artifacts, which they did. Later, the Whitacres purchased the farm and continued these activities. Two years later, Indiana amended the Historic Preservation and Archaeology Act (the act). The amendment included a provision, Section 15, requiring that a person who disturbs the ground for the purpose of discovering artifacts or burial objects do so with a plan approved by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (the department). Violation of this provision was classified as a misdemeanor. The previous version of the act contained a provision, Section 7, that prohibited field investigations and the alteration of historic property specifically on state-owned or state-leased property. The amendment left Section 7 largely intact but added a reference to Section 15. Whitacre inquired with the department as to whether Section 15 required a private landowner such as himself to obtain approval to excavate artifacts on his private land. The department indicated that its approval of a plan was necessary, but Whitacre came to the opposite conclusion. Subsequently, Whitacre filed an action in the Indiana trial court for a declaratory judgment. The trial court held that Section 15 of the act applied to all property, including private property. Whitacre appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Barteau, J.)

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