The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Wolden which stands for the proposition that the police can enter your home without a warrant if they reasonably believe "emergency aid" is required for an occupant.
In Wolden, the State of Minnesota charged appellant Shane Michael Wolden with criminal vehicular operation: causing great bodily harm while under the influence of alcohol. On December 10, 2016, several police officers responded to a motor-vehicle accident at 5900 Westbrook Road in Golden Valley. Upon arrival, the officers observed a vehicle with extensive damage. Photographs of the accident scene showed that the windshield of the vehicle was shattered and contained a large hole on the driver’s side. Those photographs also showed debris strewn around the front end of the vehicle, one of the vehicle’s wheels on the ground across the street from the vehicle, a light pole sheared off from its base, the detached lamp from that light pole, and a downed street sign. Blood was visible on both the driver’s and passenger’s sides of the vehicle, including on top of the vehicle’s sunroof. Sergeant Buffie testified that the caller who reported the accident was at the scene and told the officers that the occupants of the vehicle “had left on foot.” The officers determined that Wolden was a registered owner of the vehicle.
Officers were informed that there was a man with a severe head injury in front of a different caller’s residence. Officers responded to that residence and spoke to the man, who was identified as C.T. C.T. had been a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the accident. C.T. had severe injuries. Sergeant Buffie testified that C.T.’s “eye was bulging out of his head really bad, filled with blood,” that he had “numerous lacerations on his head and was actively bleeding with blood running down his face,” and that he “looked horrific.”
Police dispatch informed the officers that Wolden had prior contact with law enforcement at a residence at 5630 Kentley Avenue, which was less than a mile from the accident scene. Officers went to that address and found, outside the garage of the residence, a man’s watch and what appeared to be a key fob for the same make and model as the vehicle involved in the accident. Officers elected not to set up a perimeter around the residence. Instead, officers entered the residence and announced their presence. Sergeant Buffie testified that he entered the residence because he believed that the driver of the vehicle, Wolden, was potentially in worse condition than C.T. and could have been severely injured.
Officers went to the basement and saw Wolden lying on a bed, under the covers. Officers observed that Wolden’s breathing and heartbeat were rapid. While Wolden was talking to the officers, they detected a strong odor of alcohol and noticed that his speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot and watery. Wolden told officers a second time that he did not need an ambulance. Law enforcement administered field sobriety tests, and Wolden performed poorly on the tests. Wooden subsequently tested a .19 BAC on the Data Master Machine.
Wooden moved to suppress the evidence of his test result, etc. arguing that the police entry into his home was made without his consent or exigent circumstances to justify the entry. The District Court disagreed finding that the "emergency aid" exception to the warrant requirement justified the entry. On Appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, stating:
"It is a basic principle of Fourth Amendment law that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586, 100 S. Ct. 1371, 1380 (1980) (quotation omitted). “Nevertheless, the warrant requirement is subject to certain limited exceptions, and law enforcement officers . . . ‘may enter a home without a warrant to render emergency assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury.’” State v. Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d 783, 787-88 (Minn. 2007) ."
"The Minnesota Supreme Court uses a two-part test to determine whether a search was reasonable under the emergency-aid exception. Ries, 2018 WL 6332362, at *9 (citing Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). First, the police must have “reasonable grounds to believe that there is an emergency at hand and an immediate need for their assistance for the protection of life or property.” Id. (quoting Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). And second, “[tjhere must be some reasonable basis, approximating probable cause, to associate the emergency with the area or place to be searched.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788). “Under the emergency-aid exception, it does not matter if officers have reason to believe some criminal activity is afoot as long as they are objectively motivated by the need to give aid.” Id. (citing Brigham City, 547 U.S. at 404, 126 S. Ct. at 1948)."
"...the district court found that the vehicle “had extensive damage in multiple areas” and that “there was blood visible on both the driver’s side and passenger’s side of the vehicle.” This finding is unchallenged, and the photographs of the vehicle and accident scene support it. The district court also found that when officers encountered C.T. he had “severe injuries including numerous lacerations, and blood running down his face and head.” That finding is supported by the record, particularly, Sergeant Buffie’s testimony regarding C.T.’s “horrific” appearance. The totality of these circumstances provided the officers objectively reasonable grounds to suspect that Wolden might be seriously injured and need immediate aid."
"We turn to the second part of the emergency-aid test: whether there was some reasonable basis, approximating probable cause, to associate the emergency with the area or place to be searched. Here, police dispatch informed the officers that Wolden had prior contact with law enforcement at the residence to be searched, which was less than a mile from the accident scene. Officers found, outside the garage of the residence, a man’s watch and what appeared to be a key fob for the same make and model as the vehicle involved in the accident. Based on the information from police dispatch connecting Wolden to the residence, the proximity of the residence and accident scene, and the discovery of a key fob, outside of the garage of the residence, for a vehicle with the same make and model as the accident vehicle, there was a reasonable basis approximating probable cause to believe Wolden was at the residence and to associate the emergency with the residence."
Moral Of The Story: You can run but you cannot hide!
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, or are facing a DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.