Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OWI Law - Illegal Entry Through Open Door Forces DUI Dismissal

In State of Iowa v. Dierks, Slip Copy, 2011 WL 6076538 (Table) (Iowa App.), a concerned citizen reported a possible drunk driver. While following that person, the alleged DUI driver pulled into a business garage, parked with the garage overhead open, and entered into a business. The 'business' door was open, but a screen door was closed. The entrance did not appear to be one that would be used by the public at large. The police officer knocked and no one responded. The cop found the driver urinating in the restroom, and asked him to step outside. Once outside, the cop developed probable cause to arrest.

On appeal, the defendant alleged that entry was illegal. The Iowa court wrote:

The determination of whether Dierks “has a legitimate expectation of privacy concerning a specific area is made on a case-by-case basis, considering the unique facts of each situation.” See id. at 563 (quoting State v. Legg, 633 N.W .2d 763, 767 (Iowa 2001)). In resolving this issue, we do not ask “whether the individual has chosen to conceal some private activity but whether the government's intrusion infringes upon the personal and societal values protected by” the constitution. Id. (quoting State v. Breuer, 577 N.W.2d 41, 46 (Iowa 1998)).

“Although each case is unique,” we have differentiated business activity in a home. See id. (stating a guest in a home does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy if the guest is “on the premises merely to conduct a business transaction”). Additionally, “the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection.” Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351, 88 S.Ct. 507, 511, 19 L.Ed.2d 576, 582 (1967).

Courts have also concluded that “[a]n open gate invites entry.” United States v. Tolar, 268 F.3d 530, 532 (7th Cir.2001) (holding no constitutional violation when police entered an open business to ask the owner's permission to conduct a search). In United States v. Sandoval–Vasquez, 435 F.3d 739, 742–44 (7th Cir.2006), the officers in that case entered an open business around 4:30 p.m. by walking through the garage and a pedestrian entrance. The court noted the fact the business “may have been in the process of closing” did not make the entry unconstitutional, and distinguished an earlier case in which the officers unconstitutionally entered “a business they knew was closed.” Id . at 743.

"Under the record presented, we conclude the door was a private, not a public, entrance to the business. It makes no difference that the security door was open; the screen door to the private entrance was closed. There was no “open gate” inviting entry. See Tolar, 268 F.3d at 532; see also Sandoval–Vasquez, 435 F.3d at 742–44. Based on these specific facts and circumstances, we conclude Dierks had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the area of his business premises where he was confronted by Quandt.

As to the State's claim of exigent circumstances, the court responded:

"The absence of hot pursuit requires us to carefully examine the claim of destruction of evidence. Id. at 566. There was no evidence Dierks knew Quandt was looking for him. There was no evidence Quandt suspected Dierks was engaged in any purposeful activity within the business premises that would destroy the integrity of any future chemical tests. Dierks's opportunity to flee by vehicle was denied, as Quandt blocked Dierks's car in the garage with his patrol car. There was no evidence concerning any efforts by police to seek a warrant or to determine the amount of time it would take to secure a warrant. Like the situation presented in Lovig, the facts here do not support a finding of exigent circumstances. See id. at 566–67. We therefore do not believe Quandt was entitled to enter through the rear door without a warrant or consent."

Therefore, the court reversed the defendant's conviction with directions to suppress.
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