Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Minneapolis DWI Attorney Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is State v. Hall (Decided September 6, 2016, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the open doorway to your home is not a constitutionally protected area.

In Hall, the Defendant's neighbor saw the Defendant drive his car at a high rate of speed on their residential street. The neighbor walked over to the Defendant's home and they had an altercation.  The neighbor called the police, who then went to the Defendant's home and knocked on the front door.  

The Defendant answered the door and when he spoke to the police the officer noted that the Defendant's eyes were bloodshot, he smelled of alcohol, his speech was slurred and he held onto the front door to keep his balance.  The police officer never entered the home but spoke to the Defendant from the front porch.

The Defendant told the officer that he had just come home from a bar and had driven past the complaining-neighbor's house. Based upon the Defendant's condition and statements, officer believed the Defendant had been driving while intoxicated.

The officer then asked the Defendant to come out of his house to perform some field sobriety tests; Defendant said it was his house and the officer should not be there. The officer said he did not want to have to come in and get Defendant, but would do so if necessary, and that Defendant would be arrested for DWI in any event. 

Defendant then came out of the house and attempted to perform the field sobriety tests. He failed a preliminary breath test (PBT). The officer determined that he had probable cause to arrest Defendant and arrested him. Defendant was taken to a police station, where the implied consent advisory was read to him, and he provided a breath sample; it indicated an alcohol concentration of 0.19.

The Defendant was charged with misdemeanor DWI but he moved to suppress all of the evidence on the grounds he had been illegally seized from his residence.  The District Court agreed with the Defendant and ruled that the seizure was not lawful because the Defendant was "coerced and threatened into leaving the sanctuary of his house".

It is well established in Minnesota that the police may not enter a home to make a misdemeanor arrest unless they are "in hot pursuit" of a suspect but that was not the case here.  In this case, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court because there was no "entry" into the residence.  Or as stated by the Court of Appeals:

"Here, the officer knocked and remained on the porch while he talked to defendant. There was no "warrantless entry of  a family residence" because the officer stood in the open doorway"..."For Fourth-Amendment purposes, an open doorway is a public place. United States v. Santana, All U.S. 38, 42, 96 S. Ct. 2406, 2409 (1976). A defendant who is in a public place when officers initiate an arrest may not thwart the arrest by retreating into his residence. Id. at 43, 96 S. Ct. at 2410. Defendant opened the door of his house to the police officer and, while they were in the open doorway, gave the officer probable cause to arrest him by displaying several indicia of intoxication and admitting that he had just driven home from a bar where he had been drinking. Having done these things, Defendant had no right to thwart his arrest by retreating into his house. See id. at 42-43, 96 S. Ct. at 2409-10 (stating that a defendant's "act of retreating into her house could [not] thwart an otherwise proper arrest" and concluding that the officer's following the defendant into her house was "hot pursuit" and justified his warrantless entry). If Defendant had retreated into his house and the officer, without a warrant, had followed him, the warrantless entry of Defedant's house would have been justified."

MORAL OF THE STORY: A man's home is not his castle until he shuts the door!

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.